12 March 2008

Crazy race for the last Mediterranean tuna

A new WWF report, 126 pages long, provides the first real estimate of the actual catch capability of the Mediterranean purse seine fleet targeting bluefin tuna.

The results are discouraging: few tuna stocks left are driven by unregulated and unsustainable fisheries to a tragic end point.

Without considering the potential catch from other fleets, such as pelagic trawlers, longliners etc., the Mediterranean purse seine fleet has a calculated yearly catch potential of 54,783 metric tonnes. This amount is twice the fishing capacity of current quotas and more than 3.5 times the catch levels recommended by scientists to avoid stock collapse.

Since 1997 there has been a large expansion of the Mediterranean purse seine fleet. In the coastal waters of western Greece, the Tethys Research Institute registered a steady decline in the encounter rate of top predators including common dolphins and tuna (see paper about the decline of marine megafauna and the video Disappearing Dolphins).

How could we ever get to this point? Systematic upward adjustment of quotas, under-reporting of catches, uncontrolled increase in fishing capacity, illegal fishing, ever-increasing market demand ever-expanding fleet size and efficiency... these are some ingredients of the foolish management that brought the tuna stocks to nearly collapse.

Sergi Tudela, Head of Fisheries at WWF Mediterranean, has a clear view of the situation: “The fishery is unsustainable in every way – economically, socially, and ecologically. The time to act is now – while there are still bluefin tuna to save in the Mediterranean”.

Silvia Bonizzoni

For more information
To download the report

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