WWF resumes bluefin tuna tagging


SeafoodSource staff

Published on
May 11, 2009

The World Wildlife Fund on Tuesday resumed its three-year bluefin tuna tagging project in the Mediterranean Sea off southern Spain.

WWF scientists hope to map tuna migrations in an effort to unlock mysteries of the valuable but imperiled fish. WWF is working with fishermen from Spain’s traditional tuna trap, the almadraba.

This method of fishing dates back about 3,000 years and is considered to be sustainable. But fishermen there have seen catches fall more than 80 percent over the past two decades, according to WWF.

“The plan behind this project to fill the significant gaps in knowledge of bluefin tuna’s migratory behavior in the Mediterranean is starting to bear fruits,” said Dr. Sergi Tudela, head of fisheries at WWF Mediterranean. “The first data gathered through WWF’s tagging project, soon to be released, will reveal surprising results.”

The WWF project, dubbed On the Med, is a race against time to gather data before the fishery collapses. WWF recently released analysis showing that the reproducing population of bluefin tuna is collapsing and could effectively disappear by 2012 if there is no change to current mismanagement and overfishing.

Researchers are collecting information such as position and depth by fitting adult tunas (over 35 kilograms) with “pop-up” tags that are released from the fish at a specified time and float to the surface for the data to be read by satellite. Lifecycle information will also come from juvenile tuna tagged with “archival” tags and recovered at point of catch.

WWF wants a moratorium on bluefin tuna fishing for what it says is an absence of effective rules, lack of enforcement and high degree of illegal fishing.

WWF’s tuna tagging activities are financed by the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation and will continue through 2010.

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