Almost no more blue fin tuna to be fished

Posted: 14 September 2006

New data reveals that there is almost no more bluefin tuna to be fished in some of the oldest fishing grounds, especially in West Mediterranean. Around Spain's Balearic islands, catches of bluefin tuna are down to only 15 per cent of what they were just a decade ago.

In 1995 some 14,699 tonnes were caught there, mainly by French and Spanish fleets - while just 2,270 tonnes have been fished in the same waters this year.

Southern bluefin tuna (<em>Thunnus maccoyii</em>), marked and labelled, Tokyo fishmarket Japan. Photo: WWF-Canon / Michael Sutton
Southern bluefin tuna (Thunnus maccoyii), marked and labelled, Tokyo fishmarket Japan. Photo: WWF-Canon / Michael Sutton
Southern bluefin tuna (Thunnus maccoyii), marked and labelled, Tokyo fishmarket Japan.WWF-Canon / Michael Sutton
The new data on the 2006 fishing season, issued this week by WWF, also reveals that Mediterranean bluefin tuna farms - which would usually be filling up by this time of the year - have experienced substantial decline. From 2006's catches of wild Mediterranean tuna, some 22,520 tonnes have been put in captivity and farmed, a 25 per cent reduction compared to 30,000 tonnes farmed last year. Six Spanish tuna ranches have already ceased operating altogether because there were simply no more tuna.

WWF presented the data on the 2006 fishing season on Tueday at the European Parliament's Fisheries Committee, which held a special hearing on the bluefin tuna crisis. For this occasion, fishermen from the traditional tuna trappers' association in Spain - OPP51 - joined WWF to call on to the EU to take immediate action.

Economic collapse

"We fear for our jobs", said OPP51 Director General Marta Crespo Márquez. "The EU has still not reacted to repeated warnings from scientists and we are looking to our elected representatives to take their responsibilities seriously".

"This new data points to the risk of economic collapse in the Mediterranean bluefin tuna fishing and ranching sector", warns Roberto Mielgo Bregazzi of ATRT (Advanced Tuna Ranching Technologies), author of the new data. "The Mediterranean bluefin tuna species is under threat, and many jobs in the tuna fishery are being jeopardised. The situation is alarming".

The European Commission will represent EU Member States at the ICCAT (International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas) meeting in November - and as one of the most important players in the decision-making process, the EU can push for the protection of the Mediterranean bluefin tuna from further decline.

The latest findings support WWF's alarm call earlier this year that huge illegal activity is plundering the last remaining bluefin tuna and provide even more indication that collapse of the species may soon follow.

The conservation organisation is urging he Commission to support a strict recovery plan for the fishery, including: closure of industrial fishing during the spawning season to save the last reproducing fish - as advocated by ICCAT scientists; improved real-time monitoring of fishing and farming activity; compulsory observers on board all tuna vessels and in tuna farms; and the setting of a scientifically-based minimum catch size.

Note: The bluefin tuna fishery season starts in April/May when the fish swim into the Mediterranean Sea from the Atlantic to spawn. Traditional tuna trappers catch them on their way into the sea. Then from May/June larger scale fishing methods are used to catch the fish in the high seas, which are then either transferred to tuna farms or transported directly out of the Mediterranean to the Japanese or other markets. The current closed season for the fishery is 15 July to 15 August. Tuna caught after this time is destined for Euro-Mediterranean consumption.

To read the full text of the study "The plunder of bluefin tuna in the Mediterranean and East Atlantic in 2004 and 2005 - Uncovering the real story" conducted for WWF by independent consultancy Advanced Tuna Ranching Technologies click here.

Related links:

Mediterranean bluefin tuna near collapse