‘Travesty of fisheries management’ – close bluefin tuna fishery, say independent experts | WWF

‘Travesty of fisheries management’ – close bluefin tuna fishery, say independent experts

Posted on
10 September 2008

WWF welcomes the conclusions reached by an independent expert panel that all activity should be suspended in the Mediterranean bluefin tuna fishery, and sanctuaries should be created in all main spawning areas as a matter of urgency in order to save the endangered species.

The International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) – the fisheries management body whose members are tasked with sustainably managing the fishery – itself commissioned the independent performance review, conducted by a panel of international fisheries experts whose conclusions have just been published.

The performance review report, seen by WWF, is scathing of the failure by ICCAT to manage East Atlantic and Mediterranean bluefin tuna, a species now under serious threat of imminent collapse:

“ICCAT Contracting Parties’ performance in managing fisheries on bluefin tuna, particularly in the eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean Sea, is widely regarded as an international disgrace and the international community which has entrusted the management of this iconic species to ICCAT deserve better performance from ICCAT than it has received to date,” states the review.

Referring to the blatant disregard for scientific advice in the current management plan, and the widespread lack of compliance, the review concludes that the only option is to close the Mediterranean bluefin tuna fishery until sustainable practice is put in place:

“Large catches of juveniles are believed to continue to occur in some areas, catches of larger, more successful spawners have increased substantially, new purse seiners continue to be added to the fleets and fishing has expanded in areas that previously acted as refugia. (…) Contracting Parties of ICCAT have failed to abide by their legal obligations under international law, have failed to conserve bluefin tuna and have failed in the eyes of the international community. (…)”

“The panel recommends that all fishing for East Atlantic and Mediterranean bluefin tuna be immediately suspended until the Contracting Parties involved in those fisheries, their nationals and companies operating in their waters, agree to fully abide by the rules and recommendations of ICCAT and international fisheries law (…) and further recommends that ICCAT consider an immediate closure of all known bluefin tuna spawning grounds at least during spawning periods.”

“Such staggering conclusions from independent experts only reinforce what WWF has been saying for years – this is a fishery grossly out of control, and if the fishery is not closed now pending radical management overhaul, this majestic species may be confined to the history books,” says Dr Sergi Tudela, Head of Fisheries at WWF Mediterranean.

The ICCAT independent review panel members are: Glenn Hurry, Chief Executive Officer of the Australian Fisheries Management Authority, and current Chair of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission; Moritaka Hayashi, Professor Emeritus of International Law at Japan’s Waseda University; and Jean-Jacques Maguire, Canadian international fisheries scientist.

ICCAT Contracting Parties will meet in Marrakech, Morocco, from 17-24 November 2008 when fresh management decisions on the Mediterranean bluefin tuna fishery will be taken.

For further information:
Gemma Parkes
WWF Mediterranean Communications Officer
+39 346 387 3237