WWF reveals huge overcapacity still in place in Mediterranean bluefin tuna fishery



Posted on 10 November 2011  | 
Northern bluefin tuna (Thunnus thynnus) in tuna ranching company's (Ecolo Fish) cages, being fattened for the sushi market, Mediterranean Sea, Spain.
© Brian J. Skerry / National Geographic Stock / WWFEnlarge
Istanbul, Turkey – As ICCAT (International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas) opens tomorrow in Istanbul, WWF releases a new study showing current fishing capacity doubling bluefin tuna quotas in the East Atlantic and Mediterranean and points to the need to strengthen the current capacity reduction plan. In addition, WWF urges ICCAT this year to ban bluefin tuna farming.

At this 22nd edition of ICCAT, WWF will focus on assessing implementation of the current bluefin tuna recovery plan. In addition the Mediterranean swordfish will be high on the agenda. WWF urges ICCAT to adopt a management plan for this species, the first one ever.

Illegal fishing remains widespread in Mediterranean


Although efforts have been made in the last few years, new reports suggest that illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing remains widespread in the Mediterranean, particularly in Libyan waters but also in Italy. The new WWF study on the fishing capacity of the Mediterranean bluefin tuna fishery points out that huge overcapacity is still prevalent. In the period 2008-2010 estimates of potential annual catches amount to between 31,500t and 34,000t, considerably higher than the current TAC (total allowable catch, set by ICCAT at 12,900t in 2011); this leaves ample room for IUU fishing.

“Fleet overcapacity is a key driver for overfishing; the reduction in fleet capacity achieved in the last few years is still far from putting an end to overcapacity, as potential catch rates have been highly underestimated by managers. How is it possible that the individual quotas allocated to each vessel by national governments are in many cases far higher than the vessels’ catch capacity estimated by ICCAT?” says Dr Sergi Tudela, Head of Fisheries at WWF Mediterranean.

According to WWF, sustainable management of the bluefin tuna fishery still needs to be achieved and IUU must be fully eradicated. In particular WWF urges ICCAT to ban fishing in Libyan waters and to turn this area into a BFT Sanctuary.

Ban bluefin tuna farming


Growth in tuna farms also remains a burning issue. A recent scientific study submitted to ICCAT Scientific Committee (SCRS) this year shows that biomass growth in farms is typically much lower than that reported by the farming industry (only 20-30%, compared to given values of over 100%), which raises concern over the potential for laundering bluefin tuna catches in Mediterranean farms. Full traceability in farms continues to be impossible as there is no way to know how much tuna is transferred to the farms.

“15 years after tuna farming started in the Mediterranean, farms are still black holes rendering traceability an impossible task. WWF calls on ICCAT to either adopt a technical solution enabling full traceability in farms without delay or to ban the practice of tuna farming completely”, added Dr Sergi Tudela, Head of Fisheries at WWF Mediterranean.

WWF urges ICCAT to ban bluefin tuna farming and to adopt an electronic catch documentation system (BCD) to allow for real time traceability.

Urgent need for swordfish recovery plan


On swordfish, WWF calls on ICCAT to adopt a science-based recovery plan this year including a mandatory capacity reduction multi-annual plan.

The Mediterranean swordfish fishery underwent a rapid expansion in the late 1980s resulting in a severe decline in stock biomass. The current fishery is based on juvenile, sexually immature fish. The increasing lack of spawners in the sea not only undermines the productivity of the fishery but also puts its survival at risk.

“A scientifically-based recovery plan for Mediterranean swordfish needs to be urgently adopted by ICCAT in order to avoid further deterioration of the stock. Unless we take immediate action, swordfish will follow the same fate as bluefin tuna and face high risk of collapse.” added Dr Susana Sainz-Trapaga, Fisheries Officer at WWF Mediterranean.
Northern bluefin tuna (Thunnus thynnus) in tuna ranching company's (Ecolo Fish) cages, being fattened for the sushi market, Mediterranean Sea, Spain.
© Brian J. Skerry / National Geographic Stock / WWF Enlarge
An Italian purse seine vessel fishing Mediterranean bluefin tuna
An Italian purse seine vessel fishing Mediterranean bluefin tuna - Italian fishers were 40 per cent over quota on the imperilled fishery for 2007
© ATRT Enlarge

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