The Commission’s scientific committee had recommended that
7500 tons of tuna be caught to avoid any further decrease in population. Under
pressure from the European Union, the Commission instead allowed a catch of
"ICCAT has missed its last chance to save the bluefin
tuna from stock collapse," said Sebastian Losada, Greenpeace Spain oceans
campaigner, who has been attending the Marrakech meeting. "Bluefin tuna
has become an endangered species because of ICCAT mismanagement. It's time to
take the fishery out of their hands and look to Conventions like CITES to
impose trade restrictions on the species."
The bluefin, which is highly prized for sushi, is one of
the most extraordinary animals in the sea: the size of a small elephant, it can
move faster than a cheetah, reaching speeds of more than 50 miles per hour
within seconds. Its numbers have declined to the brink of extinction in recent
years due to both legal and illegal overfishing.
The European Union, representing the majority of
Mediterranean countries with interests in the bluefin tuna fishery, bullied
other parties in the meeting into agreeing to management proposals which
completely fail to follow the advice of ICCAT's own scientific body to substantially
reduce fishing and protect the species' spawning grounds.
Despite efforts by a number of concerned countries –
Brazil, Canada, Mexico, Norway, South Africa and the United States – they were
unable to overcome EU opposition to measures that would save the species.
The new management plan fails to protect the spawning
population and merely shortens the purse seine fishing season, responsible for
the bulk of illegal catches, by 10 days. The pressure from the European
countries has been so strong that they have even managed to slow down the
'payback' for the illegal catches made in the region in 2007.
In 2006, following years of extremely high levels of pirate
fishing by European Union fishing vessels among others, ICAAT’s scientific
committee recommended a limit of 15,000 tons. Instead, the Commission permitted
a catch of 29,500 tons. Because of pirate fishing, the scientific committee now
estimates that actual bluefin tuna catches were about 61,000 tons in 2007.
Greenpeace has been calling for a closure of the fishery
until a proper recovery plan is in place, including at a very minimum a Total
Allowed Catch (TAC) in line with the scientific advice, a seasonal closure
covering the months of May, June and July and the establishment of marine
reserves to protect the bluefin tuna spawning grounds.
A recently released performance review of ICCAT written by
a panel of experts appointed by ICCAT itself states that "the management
by ICCAT members of this bluefin tuna fishery in the Mediterranean is widely seen
as an international disgrace." The panel itself recommends "the
suspension of fishing on bluefin tuna in the eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean
until the CPCs fully comply with ICCAT recommendations on bluefin."
again, short term financial gain has been put before the long-term survival of
the species, and of the livelihood of fishermen who depend on it," said
Phil Kline, a senior Greenpeace oceans campaigner and former commercial
fisherman of twenty-nine years. "The independent review panel was right –
ICCAT´s management of the fishery is an international disgrace. If ICAAT won’t
act, we need to find another authority to do what’s needed before someone eats
the last bluefin."
Tuna Out of the Can,” Greenpeace Report on the State of the World’s Tuna: http://www.greenpeace.org/international/press/reports/taking-tuna-out-of-the-can
Greenpeace’s submission to ICCAT 2008:http://www.greenpeace.org/international/press/reports/ICCAT-16
is campaigning for a global network of fully protected marine reserves covering
40 percent of our oceans as an essential way to protect our seas from the
ravages of climate change, to restore the health of fish stocks and protect
ocean life from habitat destruction and collapse. It comprised of 28
independent national/regional offices in over 40 countries across Europe, the
Americas, Asia and the Pacific.
VVPR info: Jane Kochersperger, Media Officer, + 1 202 680 3798 cell
Phil Kline, Oceans Campaigner, + 1 202 271 6710
Notes: For Greenpeace’s submission to ICCAT 2008: