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Mediterranean Tuna Industry Sinking Under Pressure

GENERAL - A growing chorus of voices is demanding a total closure of the Mediterranean bluefin tuna fishery, as regulatory body ICCAT (the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna) braces itself for a highly contentious annual meeting in Marrakech in November.

The latest to enter the lists is The Economist newspaper, which warned that rampant overfishing might result in the collapse of the Mediterranean fishery, with devastating consequences for the critically endangered fish and local fishing communities alike.

“In the last decade there has been an explosion of something called ‘tuna ranching’ in many European nations,” the influential newspaper reported this week. “Here tuna are rounded up and penned rather than being landed (hence they do not count against the quota), becoming a form of aquaculture to be fattened up and sold on a few years later. They don’t breed, and no fish are added back to the wild population...”

Echoing calls made by international conservation groups such as Greenpeace International the World Wildlife Fund, The Economist calls for a temporary closure to allow stocks to replenish themselves: “(Mediterranean) countries should recognise their responsibilities. The gold rush is over. The plunder should stop, and bluefin should be given time to build themselves up again.”

According to Raphael Vassallo of MaltaToday, this pressure comes just after the International Union for the Conservation of Nature voted overwhelmingly for a moratorium on bluefin tuna last week: both Spain and Japan - among the word’s largest fishing and consuming nations respectively - surprised international observers by voting in favour of the controversial move.