Fishing piracy killing off Mediterranean tuna, says new Greenpeace report

Press release - 24 May, 2006
Bluefin tuna in the Mediterranean is being driven to the brink of extinction, by unscrupulous fishing piracy and ineffective management, a new Greenpeace report reveals today. The report, "Where have all the tuna gone?" highlights the need for urgent measures to improve and enforce fisheries regulations and protect breeding grounds as part of a recovery plan, without which Mediterranean bluefin tuna could soon be a thing of the past (1).

Greenpeace report: "Where have all the tuna gone?"

"The commercial extinction of bluefin tuna from the Mediterranean Seais just around the corner," said Sebastian Losada of Greenpeace Spain."The stock is being plundered by fishing pirates to satisfy thecommercial greed of the tuna ranching industry (2) which itself isbeing hypocritically subsidised by both the EU and the Mediterraneancountries themselves. It is grotesque that the greatest culprits arethe fishing fleets from Mediterranean countries such as France."

The report "Where have all the tuna gone?" demonstrates that:

  • catches exceed by more than 12,000 tonnes (37%) the legal quota;
  • EU subsidies to the tuna ranching industry have been as high as $34 million over the last decade;
  • tuna ranch capacity in the Mediterranean is at least 51,012 tonnes, exceeding by almost 60% the Total Allowable Catches adopted bythe International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas[ICCAT]: an indisputable incentive for illegal catches in the region.

For five years the WWF has denounced the uncontrolled expansion of tunaranching in the Mediterranean, which is exacerbating illegal fishing ofbluefin tuna. WWF is about to release a technical study containing thefirst accurate assessment of real catches of the bluefin tuna stock,which is expected to confirm the illegal catch figures reported byGreenpeace.

Both studies show clearly that pirate fishing for bluefin tuna isrampant in the region, and those responsible for the plunder areprominent members of ICCAT, the organisation supposedly managing thefishery.

"The bluefin tuna is nearing commercial and ecological extinction.ICCAT must immediately extend its one-month seasonal fishing ban in theregion to at least three months starting from 1st July, in  orderto effectively reduce overfishing," said Sergi Tudela, Head ofFisheries at the WWF Mediterranean Programme Office.

The Greenpeace ship Esperanza is in Barcelona this week on thebeginning of the fourth leg of its 14-month global expedition"Defending Our Oceans", the most ambitious ship expedition everundertaken by the organisation.(3) Greenpeace is calling on thecountries of the Mediterranean to protect bluefin tuna with marinereserves in their breeding and feeding areas.

"A small number of tuna ranching companies and investors are stealingwhat was once a shared resource from hundreds of fisherman trying tomake a legitimate living from the bluefin tuna of the Mediterranean,"said Karli Thomas of Greenpeace International.  "Greenpeace willwork on the high seas in the coming months to expose the tuna pirates.The Mediterranean public has a right to know -where have all the tunagone?" concluded Thomas.

Greenpeace is an independent campaigning organisation that usesnon-violent creative confrontation to expose global environmentalproblems to drive solutions that are essential to a green and peacefulfuture.

Notes: (1) "Where have all the tuna gone?", Greenpeace, 2006. Full report... Executive Summary... Tuna ranching, a relatively new industry in the region, is the main driving force behind the current levels of overexploitation. Tuna are caught in the wild and transferred to cages, before being towed to the coast where they are kept in ranches and fed for months, then killed for export.(3) The expedition has so far exposed the threats to the oceans such as whaling in the Southern Ocean and pirate fishing in West Africa, and documented the beauty of deep sea habitats around the Azores. In the Mediterranean, Greenpeace will set out to document the region's beauty, highlight the devastating impacts of overfishing on the survival of species like the bluefin tuna and propose a global network of properly enforced marine reserves covering 40% of the world's oceans.