Greenpeace demands immediate closure of the Mediterranean bluefin tuna fishery

Press release - 22 June, 2006
The bluefin tuna population in the Mediterranean Sea may be on the brink of collapse and the fishery must be closed immediately, said Greenpeace today. The organisation's ship Esperanza, in the Mediterranean on the 4th leg of its fourteen-month Defending Our Oceans expedition, (1) has spent the past month documenting and exposing the disastrous management of the fishery.

Turkish fishermen fishing with a purse seine net transfer live bluefin tuna from the fishing net to a transport cage before transporting the fish back to fish farms in Turkey. There the tuna are fattened before being sold to the Japanese market.

During this time the Esperanza has been to some of the main tunafishing grounds in the region, including the Balearic Islands and thewaters north of Egypt and south of Turkey. Greenpeace has documentedthe activity of some of the most important fishing fleets in theMediterranean (2) and spoken with the captains of these vessels. Allthe evidence confirms the desperate state of the fishery in the wholeregion.

"A month ago we asked the question: Where have all the tuna gone? Well,now we know the answer - we may be witnessing the collapse of thebluefin tuna stock from the Mediterranean Sea," said Sebastián Losadaof Greenpeace Spain aboard the Esperanza. "Massive overfishing over thepast decade by greedy companies has brought about this crisis, and theInternational Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas(ICCAT),

charged with regulating the industry, has proved to be completely unable to enforce the rules".

In May, Greenpeace published a report (3) which drew the world'sattention to the serious depletion of bluefin tuna in the MediterraneanSea and demonstrating that up to 45,000 tonnes of tuna may have beencaught each year in 2004 and 2005, despite the fact that only 32,000tonnes can be caught legally. During the past month the fishermenGreenpeace has spoken to admitted that quotas are not respected andthat there is no effective control over the fishery.

Greenpeace is calling on the countries of the Mediterranean to protectbluefin tuna with marine reserves in their breeding and feeding areas.They would become part of a global network of marine parks across 40%of the world's oceans that are needed to give the oceans a chance torecover from decades of large-scale industrial exploitation.

"It is indisputable that neither Governments nor ICCAT are in aposition to enforce fisheries regulations in the region and that, asthe evidence indicates, bluefin tuna may be on the brink of collapse",said Sebastián Losada. "The fishery should be closed until newmanagement measures that guarantee the future of the fishery are put inplace (4) - otherwise it will be finished for good."

Other evidence of the mismanagement of the fishery documented byGreenpeace includes Japanese longliners fishing south of Sicily in themonth of June, when longline fishing for bluefin tuna is prohibited,and the transhipment of catches at sea which provides an open door forillegal catches to reach the market without being properly controlled.(5)

"The situation is cause for grave concern wherever we've been to. TheEsperanza spent a week with the French and Spanish fleets and theydidn't find a single bluefin tuna. The Turkish fleet is concerned aboutthe declining size of the fish they catch, and they have only beenfishing this area for five years". Said François Provost of GreenpeaceFrance. "Sadly it seems the fishing industry has learnt nothing fromthe collapse of cod or the western population of bluefin tuna - theyare simply repeating past mistakes in a rush to catch the last fish,"Provost concluded.

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.

VVPR info: Sebastián Losada, oceans campaigner, Greenpeace Spain - phone +34 626 998 254François Provost, oceans campaigner, Greenpeace France - phone +33 623 590 963Karli Thomas, oceans campaigner, Greenpeace International - phone +31 6 4605 5298Greenpeace International photo desk: Franca Michienzi, phone +31 653 819 255Greenpeace International video desk: Maarten van Rouveroy, phone +31 653819 255

Notes: (1) The Greenpeace ship Esperanza is currently on a 14-month global expedition 'Defending Our Oceans', the most ambitious ship expedition ever undertaken by the organisation. 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.(2) The Esperanza has documented the activities of the French, Spanish and Turkish tuna fleets, as well as towing operations between Libya and Italy, and tuna cages in Cyprus.(3) Greenpeace, May 2006 Where have all the tuna gone?Full report available at: summary at: Greenpeace demands to ICCAT, before the fishery can be safely reopened:- Marine reserves to protect the breeding and feeding grounds of bluefin tuna- A recovery program that includes a substantial reduction in the bluefin tuna quota, and marine reserves to protect the breeding grounds of the species- A minimum landing size that matches the sexual maturity of the species- An extension of the seasonal closure of the fishery to guarantee a strong, immediate and enforceable decrease in the fishing effort- Independent observers on tuna fishing vessels and in tuna farms to record and report the catch to ensure that under-sized fish are not caught and the quota is not exceeded, and provide the information needed to sustainably manage the fishery.(5) The Greenpeace ship Rainbow Warrior documented the activity of eight to nine Japanese longliners operating south of Sicily (around 32 º 35.34 N, 29º 48.89 E) on 6 June 2006. On 17 June 2006 the Greenpeace ship Esperanza found the ex-longliner "206 Melissa", flagged to Guinea Conakry, in position 36º 12.67 N, 31º 41.67 E - south of Turkey. The crew of the vessel declared that they were operating as a reefer, receiving bluefin tuna from fishing vessels in the area.