WWF: Vessels illegally targeting bluefin
The World Wildlife Fund on Wednesday said the presence of two large, non-Mediterranean fishing fleets has it concerned that the vessels are illegally targeting bluefin tuna.
The conservation organization said it has located two fleets in the Mediterranean — one comprising a minimum of 13 Chinese-flagged vessels and one comprising a minimum of eight vessels with an unknown flag — none of which is authorized to fish for bluefin tuna.
The first fleet crossed the Mediterranean from Suez to Gibraltar before leaving the region on 26 May. After passing through the Sicily Channel, the vessels’ AIS (automatic identification system) radio signals were shut off for more than two days, according to WWF. The second fleet has been repeatedly detected in the western Mediterranean, including within the Spanish Fisheries Protection Zone in the Balearic Sea, one of the major fishing grounds for bluefin tuna.
“After a few years of tighter controls, it seems that we’re heading back to the situation we had more than a decade ago, when fishing pressure soared to peak levels that threatened the population with collapse,” said Dr. Sergi Tudela, head of WWF’s Mediterranean fisheries program.
The WWF said is has notified the ICCAT secretariat and the European Commission of the suspected illegal fishing.
The bluefin tuna fishery for French and Spanish purse seiners has been shut down 15 days ahead of schedule, after the purse seine quota allocated to both countries was exhausted late Tuesday.