ICCAT Puts Bluefin Tuna on Death Row

Nations Agree to Continued Destructive Fishing on Endangered Tuna

Press release - 27 November, 2010
Paris, 27 November 2010 – The failure by the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) to deliver any meaningful rescue for Atlantic bluefin tuna is a huge setback in the fight to save one of the most overexploited fish species in our oceans. Governments at ICCAT have just approved a 2011 bluefin fishing quota of 12,900 tons: a nominal decrease from last year’s quota, meaning the fish species will endure another season of destructive fishing and previously agreed targets for recovery will be missed.

“The word ‘conservation’ should be removed from ICCAT’s name. Governments here have just agreed to a bluefin fishing plan that scientists conclude has a shocking one-third chance of failing to protect the species. Would you get in an airplane or car if you were told that it had a 30 percent chance of crashing?” asked Greenpeace International oceans campaigner Oliver Knowles. “Despite repeated warnings from scientists, the ICCAT delegates have again bowed to narrow fishing interests and condemned the bluefin to suffer continued overfishing. The Mediterranean bluefin fishery should have been closed here at this meeting. This is a monumental failure of the way governments are supposed to protect our oceans.”

These ICCAT discussions have again shown that the fishery is out of control and that thousands of tonnes of illegally-caught bluefin tuna continue to enter the market. Bluefin fishing and farming nations have ignored obligations to ensure the recovery of fish stocks by 2015, including the bluefin’s and have approved a quota which only has a one-third probability to recover the stock.

The European Union and France, the host country, were the architects of this failure. The total quota approved by ICCAT contravenes EU legislation which makes mandatory the recovery of stocks by 2015 and 2020 at the very latest. Japan also went back on promises made earlier this year to ensure bluefin protection at this ICCAT meeting. The agreed quota is simply not compatible with stated intentions to restore bluefin populations..

Greenpeace has been calling on ICCAT to close the Mediterranean bluefin fishery and protect key spawning grounds for the species. These calls follow years of significant fraud and compliance problems in the bluefin trade, failure by ICCAT to implement its own scientific recommendations and a two-month Greenpeace ship tour in the Mediterranean to stop bluefin fishing. Discussions earlier in the year at the European Union and the UN Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) had indicated that a more positive result might be possible at this year’s ICCAT session. Several countries had argued that CITES was not the appropriate body to protect the species and that this job should be left to ICCAT. It is now apparent that they were not prepared to act on their word.

“It is appalling that the governments gathered here were unable to finally put the brakes on this slow-moving crash of an environmental disaster. Instead, the European Union used its political muscle to ensure the continuation of the tuna farming business responsible for the current situation,” continued Knowles. “This outcome confirms that the bluefin’s days are numbered and has demonstrated ICCAT’s inability to act on its own mandate.”.

Greenpeace is campaigning for a sustainable fishing industry and for a global network of marine reserves covering 40% of the world’s oceans, necessary steps to create healthy and living oceans. In Europe, Greenpeace is advocating a reform of the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) to make it based on science and transparency in order to prevent other EU fisheries from collapsing.