As the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) gets set to kick off its meeting in Istanbul on Friday, the World Wildlife Fund is calling on the group to strengthen its existing capacity reduction plan for bluefin tuna in the East Atlantic and Mediterranean and to ban bluefin tuna farming this year. The environmental organization is also urging ICCAT to ban fishing in Libyan waters and to turn them into a bluefin sanctuary.
The WWF released a report showing that illegal fishing remains widespread in the Mediterranean, particularly in Libya and Italy. From 2008 to 2010, the bluefin catch is estimated to total between 31,500 metric tons and 34,000 metric tons annually, considerably higher than the current total allowable catch set by ICCAT, according to the study.
“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?” asked Sergi Tudela, head of fisheries for WWF Mediterranean.
WWF is also advising ICCAT to ban bluefin farming, as a recent study submitted to the ICCAT scientific committee showed that biomass growth in farms is typically much lower than that reported by the farming industry, raising concern over the potential for laundering bluefin catches in Mediterranean farms.
“Fifteen 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,” said Tudela.
In addition, WWF is pushing ICCAT to adopt its first-ever management plan for Mediterranean swordfish.
“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,” said Susana Sainz-Trapaga, WWF Mediterranean fisheries officer.
The ICCAT meeting runs through next Saturday.