Greenpeace warns that time and tuna are running out

New Greenpeace report details illegal fishing for tuna in the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea.

Press release - November 9, 2007
At today’s opening of the annual conference of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT), Greenpeace climbers have hung a giant banner, reading “Time and Tuna are running out", to warn delegates of the need to take urgent action to save bluefin tuna. Over the next ten days, the ICCAT meeting will discuss management of tuna species in the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea, where rampant overfishing and pirate fishing have pushed the bluefin species to the brink of collapse. Greenpeace demands that the northern bluefin tuna fishery be closed until stocks recover (1).

 "The so-called 'bluefin tuna recovery plan' agreed last year is nothing more than a bad joke," said Sebastian Losada, Greenpeace Spain Oceans Campaigner. "While it allowed for a quota nearly double to that agreed by ICCAT's own scientific committee, ICCAT has not even managed to stick to this limited plan. If ICCAT wants to truly recover bluefin tuna, not to mention its own credibility, it must take urgent action and close the fishery now."

Unlawful activities were widespread in 2007, with ICCAT parties such as the EU having declared catches at least 20 per cent above their allocated quota (3). Numerous scandals have been made public, including some country's catches being hidden under the quota of another's (4). In a report released today, Greenpeace details a number of illegal tuna fishing operations present across the ICCAT management area, particularly within the Mediterranean (2). Based upon thorough investigation and Greenpeace's observations at sea, the report exposes the complete failure of current regulations to control illegal fishing.

Key findings include:

Illegal fishing by Japanese and Italian fleets targeting bluefin tuna, including the use by the Italian fleet of spotter planes a day after ICCAT legislation banning them came into force;

Use of illegal driftnets by Italian and Tunisian fleets;

Unregulated and illegal fishing practices by the Libyan fleet;

Misreporting of bigeye tuna catches from the Atlantic Ocean by the Taiwanese fleet;

Unregulated transhipments (offloading of catch from one ship to another) in the Mediterranean;

Using 'flags of convenience' - buying flag use from other countries, not registered to ICCAT, to escape complying with the rules - by Japanese and Korean fleets.

"In order to protect it from collapse, ICCAT must agree to close the northern bluefin fishery until the population shows signs of sustained recovery, the species' breeding grounds are fully protected, and a proper management regime based on scientific advice is adopted and properly enforced," added Losada. "In addition, ICCAT must fight Illegal, Unregulated, and Unreported (IUU) fishing in all the fisheries it manages and implement the ecosystem approach and precautionary principle to fisheries management that is legally required by international law."

Greenpeace advocates the creation of a network of no take marine reserves, protecting 40 per cent of the world's oceans, as the long term solution to the overfishing of tuna and other species, and the recovery of our overexploited oceans.

Other contacts: Contacts for the Greenpeace delegation to ICCATOceans Campaigner - Sebastian Losada, Greenpeace Spain + 34 626 998 254Oceans Campaigner - Banu Dokmecibasi, Greenpeace Mediterranean + 90 532 263 11 14Oceans Campaigner - François Provost, Greenpeace International + 33 623 590 963 Communications Officer - Yesim Aslan, Greenpeace Mediterranean +90 532 324 32 04

Notes: (1) In recent years, around 50,000 tonnes of bluefin tuna have been caught each year despite the legal quota for the species being around 32,000 tonnes. (2) “Pirate Booty. How ICCAT is failing to curb IUU fishing”, available at http://www.greenpeace.org/pirate-booty (3) European Union (EU) Member States have this year fished over 20,000 tonnes of bluefin tuna - 20 per cent above their legal quota.(4) On 18 October, the French press publicised a new scandal involving tuna catches from Turkish vessels being declared under the French quota. Midi Libre, Thursday 18 October 2007, p. 2.