The amount of eastern Atlantic bluefin tuna traded globally last year exceeded the official quota by 141 percent, according to a new report commissioned by the Pew Environment Group.

That’s up from 31 percent in 2008 and doesn’t account for “black market” bluefin missing from official databases. 

Titled “Mind the Gap,” the report arrives less than a month before the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) is set to hold its annual meeting in Istanbul. Pew is calling on ICCAT to fulfill its commitment to develop an electronic catch documentation system to more quickly and accurately identify illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing. ICCAT implemented a paper-based catch documentation system in 2008, but its “rife with fraud and misinformation,” said Pew’s Lee Crockett.

“An electronic system would provide more accurate information that can be easily shared and cross-checked instantly,” he said. “Such a program should also include a physical bar code for each bluefin, which could be easily administered and not be cost prohibitive. This would allow the fish to be tracked from sea to plate.”

Pew is also calling on ICCAT to address Italy’s use of illegal driftnets to catch bluefin by blacklisting these vessels and to better monitor the practice of tuna ranching in the Mediterranean.

“Tuna ranching in the Mediterranean makes it exceedingly difficult to accurately track the number of bluefin caught,” said Roberto Mielgo Bregazzi, a bluefin trade expert who conducted the analysis. “These offshore bluefin fattening ranches are part and parcel of the problem of underreporting and non-reporting of caught fish.” 

The report found that, in 2009 and 2010, the global bluefin trade amounted to 70,646 metric tons, double the 35,306-metric-ton quota.

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