Final Feeding Frenzy of a Failing Fishery

Press release - 11 May, 2009
Disregarding agreed bluefin tuna quotas, the Turkish government has set itself a unilateral bluefin tuna quota and broken its international commitments. The announcement comes just weeks into the 2009 bluefin tuna fishing season, and just over a week after Greenpeace uncovered an illegal landing of between 5 and 10 tonnes of juvenile bluefin tuna in the Turkish port of Karaburun(1).

Management of bluefin tuna is entrusted to the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT), an intergovernmental organisation in which the European Union is an active and influential member. The Turkish government objected to the bluefin tuna quota decided and agreed upon at the ICCAT meeting last November.(2)

Turkey currently operates the largest Mediterranean fleet fishing for bluefin tuna, an endangered species facing imminent collapse(3). Alongside ICCAT quotas, a minimum legal landing size is set at 30 kg to allow for at least one reproduction cycle before any catch. Catches below this minimum legal size limit have recently been reported by both Turkish and Italian media(4).

"Ignoring quota limits means that Turkey will simply bring an end to the bluefin tuna business even faster and once and for all, through the commercial extinction of the species," said Banu Dokmecibasi, Greenpeace Mediterranean Oceans Campaigner, in Turkey.

Since 2006, scientists have been ringing the alarm bell on the dire state of the bluefin tuna stock. They have advised not to fish above a maximum of 15,000 tonnes, and to protect the species' spawning grounds during the crucial months of May and June. Not only are the spawning grounds rampaged by industrial fleets every year, but the actual haul has been estimated at 61,100 tonnes in 2007(5), twice the legal catch agreed that year, and more than four times the recommended level to avoid collapse of the bluefin tuna population. This year, a 'recovery plan' for bluefin tuna will still allow legal fishing that is 47% above the upper sustainable limit(6).

"The scientific advice shows that this so-called recovery plan would be better called a fisheries suicide pact," said François Provost, Greenpeace International Oceans Campaigner. "Turkey, and all other fishing nations including European countries, should immediately close the bluefin fishery until its management is based on science, fishing capacity is decreased to sustainable levels and marine reserves are established to protect all the species' breeding grounds."

Greenpeace advocates the creation of a network of no-take marine reserves, protecting 40% 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: François Provost, Oceans Campaigner at Greenpeace International:
+ 33 623 590 963

Banu Dokmecibasi, Oceans Campaigner at Greenpeace Mediterranean Turkey:
+ 90 532 263 11 14

Yesim Aslan, Communications Officer at Greenpeace International:
+ 90 532 316 73 65

Greenpeace International Picture Desk: +44 7801 615889

Notes: (1) On 30 April 2009, the Yasar Reis II, unauthorised to fish for bluefin tuna in either the Turkish or ICCAT registries, landed between 400 and 500 of 12 to 20 kg each.

Photos available from the Greenpeace International Picture Desk

(2) ICCAT circular 988/09 of the 4th May 2009

(3) Report from the Standing Committee on Research and Statistics (SCRS): Mediterranean Tuna Collapse Trends :

(4) Additional catch of juveniles have been reported in:

(5) Report from the Standing Committee on Research and Statistics (SCRS) :

(6)In November 2008 at the 16th Special Meeting of ICCAT, the European Union extracted an agreement on a Total Allowable Catch of 22,000 tonnes for the eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean bluefin tuna fishery in 2009. See ICCAT Rec 08-05 - Recommendation amending the recommendation by ICCAT to establish a multiannual recovery plan for bluefin tuna in the Eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean :