WWF: Cut bluefin tuna catch in half


SeafoodSource staff

Published on
October 7, 2010

The World Wildlife Fund is urging for greater precaution in overhauling management of the Atlantic and Mediterranean bluefin tuna fishery.

The conservation organization called for cutting catches by more than half, banning fishing in areas where the tuna spawn and suspending industrial fishing following Friday’s release of scientific recommendations from the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT).

At ICCAT’s meeting this week in Madrid, Spain, scientists also referred to considerable “unquantified uncertainties” in data which they have based their analyses, according to WWF. The scientists are inviting ICCAT member countries to approach the setting of fishing quotas with much greater precaution.

The scientists — gathering in advance of ICCAT’s annual meeting on 17 to 27 November in Paris — said for the eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean bluefin tuna stock to recover by 2022 with a probability of at least 60 percent, an objective agreed by ICCAT at their 2009 annual meeting, total annual catches should be set at between zero and the current 13,500 metric tons quota. However, WWF said the numbers do not take into account the uncertainty in the data and recommends a annual quota of less than 6,000 metric tons.

WWF is also strongly urging ICCAT member countries to adopt no-fishing sanctuaries in key Mediterranean bluefin tuna spawning grounds to protect the fish when they are at their most fragile. Six eligible zones have been identified this year by ICCAT scientists. Member countries are due to debate the proposal in Paris next month.

WWF is also advocating the suspension in the Mediterranean of fishing by industrial purse-seine fleets to allow artisanal fishermen to continue catching tuna.

“Who would get in a plane that had a 60 or even 80 percent chance of arriving at its destination? WWF is shocked at the lack of precaution perpetuated by ICCAT in bluefin tuna management, and we are urging for catches to be slashed by at least half,” said Dr Sergi Tudela, head of fisheries at WWF Mediterranean. “Tuna stocks are struggling at a mere third of sustainable levels, yet rules are continuing to be flouted and reporting duties ignored — meaning ICCAT’s scientists can’t even do their job properly. The situation is an embarrassment to fishing and trading countries.”

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