Stop the bluefin tuna massacre: Greenpeace calls for closure of the bluefin tuna fishery

Press release - 17 November, 2008
Greenpeace activists have today dumped some 5 tonnes of dead bluefin tuna heads in front of the French Fisheries Ministry in Paris to protest the continued mismanagement of the Eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean bluefin tuna fishery that is leading to the commercial extinction of the species. The action was timed to coincide with the opening of the annual meeting of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT), in Marrakech.

France is currently holding the EU presidency and has been using it to shape the EU position in favour of the short term interest of the fishing industry above the need to save the bluefin tuna stock from collapse. Tuna populations in the Atlantic and Mediterranean fall under the 'management' of ICCAT, a body made up of government representation from 45 countries plus the European Community.

In 2006, following years of extremely high levels of pirate fishing, ICCAT agreed a bluefin tuna "recovery plan" that set a 'Total Allowable Catch' of 29,500 tonnes for the Eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean Sea. ICCAT's own Scientific Committee recommended a sustainable limit of 15,000 tonnes.(1) Since then the very same scientists have estimated that bluefin tuna catches were about 61,000 tonnes in 2007.

"Time and tuna are running out," said Greenpeace International Oceans Campaigner François Provost, who is attending the ICCAT meeting.

"ICCAT has got it all so wrong - its so-called recovery plan is in tatters, the fishery is completely out of control and spawning grounds are being emptied out every year when they should be protected."(2)

Greenpeace is demanding to all ICCAT Contracting Parties to close the bluefin tuna fishery immediately. It should not re-open until:

  • Marine reserves have been established to protect all the species' spawning grounds
  • Fishing capacity has decreased to sustainable levels
  • A new management plan in strict compliance with the scientific advice has been adopted and is being properly enforced.

"Unless serious steps are taken at this week's meeting, those countries who are members to ICCAT will wear the blame for managing the collapse of one of the most important and profitable fisheries of our time and the destruction of a way of life for the fishermen of the region," said Sebastian Losada, Greenpeace Spain Oceans Campaigner, who is also attending the Marrakech meeting.

Greenpeace 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.

Other contacts: (In Marrakech)

Michael Kessler, Greenpeace International Media Officer
+34 655 792 699

Sebastian Losada, Greenpeace Spain Oceans Campaigner
+34 626 998 254

Francois Provost, Greenpeace International Oceans Campaigner
+33 623 590 963

Greenpeace International Picture Desk: Daniel Beltran (Acting Picture Editor)
+1 206 300 6511

Greenpeace International Video Desk: Maarten van Rouveroy
+31 646 197 322

Notes: (1) While scientists had recommended a maximum TAC of 15,000 t, the current plan approved a quota of 29,500 t in 2007, 28,500 t in 2008, 27,500 t in 2009 and 25,500 t in 2010.

(2) A recently released performance review of ICCAT written by a panel of experts appointed by ICCAT itself states that "the management by ICCAT CPCs of this bluefin tuna fishery in the Mediterranean is widely seen as an international disgrace." The panel itself recommends ICCAT "the suspension of fishing on bluefin tuna in the eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean until the CPCs fully comply with ICCAT recommendations on bluefin."

The panel consisted of Glenn Hurry, Chief Executive Officer of the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) and the current Chairman of the WCPFC, Moritaka Hayashi, Professor (now emeritus) of International Law, Waseda University in Japan, and Jean-Jacques Maguire, a well known and respected international fisheries scientist from Canada."