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Make or Break for the Bluefin Tuna

EU - The meeting of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) which opens next week in Marrakesh will really be make-or-break for the historic Mediterranean bluefin tuna stock, says European Commissioner, Joe Borg.

"Scientists tell us that the situation is extremely serious. Our action must be equal to that situation. After two years of implementation of the bluefin tuna recovery plan, it is clear that far more rigorous measures and stronger application of the rules are needed", he said in a press statement. "We cannot let things just go on as they are. The status quo is not an option. We need to accelerate the implementation of the plan, and we need to strengthen those measures which do not go far enough in their present form to do the job."

Overcapacity remains a major weakness in the fishery, especially in the purse seine sector, where the present EU fleet has the power to overfish their quota by 50%, or more. And this problem is not restricted to Europe.

"The fact that scientists estimate that the total real catch of Eastern bluefin tuna in 2007 was twice the total allowable catch for the fishery says it all. The performance review ICCAT has commissioned shows that the problem lies not in the measures we agreed on, but with the terrible record of compliance with them on the part of the contracting parties", he said.

"2009 should be the year of compliance for ICCAT, and we need to see the sanctions which are available being used to bring the contracting parties back into line when they err. We also need to see real measures to bring capacity into line with the state of the resource. And we need to extend the closed season, as this is a simple, controllable measure, which can have real results.

"This year, for the first time, the Commission goes to represent the EU in ICCAT with a mandate, fully endorsed by the Council of Fisheries Ministers in October. I would like again to thank the Council, and in particular the French presidency, for their support for our position in these critical negotiations. Under this mandate, the Commission has the authority of the whole EU behind it to argue for the stronger measures we need – measures whick have the potential to put an end to the illegal overfishing which is destroying this precious stock. This is the last chance for all the parties involved in the fishery to save it from collapse. I therefore call on all the contracting parties of ICCAT to join the EU in taking their responsibilities for the future of bluefin tuna. We have to do it this year. Next year, it will be too late."