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Fleets 'Stealing' Tuna Must Pay, Say WWF


EU - Countries which exceed fishing quotas on the rare East Atlantic tuna species should pay for their illegal activity, an issue that has been key in bringing the species to the brink of collapse, WWF said.

European fleets, particularly from France, have massively overfished the tuna species by up to 100 per cent for a period of several years.

Yet they repeatedly managed to obtain amnesty on the “payback rules” from the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) meaning their quotas to catch tuna were not accordingly reduced in the following years as set out in ICCAT’s own rules.

“It is astonishing that some countries seem to be allowed to operate above any rules and regulations,” Sergi Tudela, Head of WWF’s Fisheries Programme, said in Paris on the sidelines of ICCAT’s annual meeting.

The goals of the meeting include the enforcement of existing rules that oblige countries to respect the fishing quotas on tuna.

“In order to maintain its credibility ICCAT has to enforce its rules and oblige fishing countries to pay back what they have effectively stolen,” Tudela said.

“Allowing European fleets to overfish without any consequences is an embarrassment for ICCAT and its members, especially at a time when the EU is meant to be reforming its fisheries policy,” he said.

In 2005 and 2006 EU fleets overshot their legal bluefin tuna quotas by 2,269.3 tonnes and 865.5 tonnes respectively. According to ICCAT rules they should have been subject to a 100 per cent payback. After obtaining amnesty the fleets again overshot the quota by 5,021 tonnes in 2007.

ICCAT has failed for years to implement sustainable recovery and management for this fishery in the Mediterranean Sea, but poor compliance has only made the situation worse.

Like other species of bluefin tuna, the eastern Atlantic bluefin has flesh whose taste and bright red colour are admired by sushi lovers across the world.

And like other bluefin tuna species, it is also on the brink of collapse.

WWF is calling on governments to end rule-bending and impunity for illegal fishing. The global conservation group is urging the inter-governmental ICCAT to implement a science-based management plan that will allow the Atlantic bluefin tuna to recover.

Specifically, WWF is urging ICCAT to cut bluefin tuna catches in the Mediterranean from 13,500 tonnes per year at present to less than 6,000 tonnes, and to allocate the remaining catch to artisanal fishing fleets.

Destructive industrial purse seine fleets and fattening farms in the Mediterranean must be urgently phased out.

No-fishing sanctuaries should be established in the species’ six known spawning grounds in the Mediterranean Sea.