Aquaculture for all

Turkish Fleets Chase Bluefin to its End

Sustainability Politics +2 more

TURKEY - Disregarding agreed bluefin tuna quotas, the Turkish government has set itself a unilateral bluefin tuna quota and broken its international commitments.

The announcement comes just weeks into the 2009 bluefin tuna fishing season, and just over a week after Greenpeace uncovered an illegal landing of between 5 and 10 tonnes of juvenile bluefin tuna in the Turkish port of Karaburun

Management of bluefin tuna is entrusted to the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT), an intergovernmental organisation in which the European Union is an active and influential member. The Turkish government objected to the bluefin tuna quota decided and agreed upon at the ICCAT meeting last November.

Turkey currently operates the largest Mediterranean fleet fishing for bluefin tuna, an endangered species facing imminent collapse. Alongside ICCAT quotas, a minimum legal landing size is set at 30 kg to allow for at least one reproduction cycle before any catch. Catches below this minimum legal size limit have recently been reported by both Turkish and Italian media.

"Ignoring quota limits means that Turkey will simply bring an end to the bluefin tuna business even faster and once and for all, through the commercial extinction of the species," said Banu Dokmecibasi, Greenpeace Mediterranean Oceans Campaigner, in Turkey.

Since 2006, scientists have been ringing the alarm bell on the dire state of the bluefin tuna stock. They have advised not to fish above a maximum of 15,000 tonnes, and to protect the species' spawning grounds during the crucial months of May and June. Not only are the spawning grounds rampaged by industrial fleets every year, but the actual haul has been estimated at 61,100 tonnes in 2007, twice the legal catch agreed that year, and more than four times the recommended level to avoid collapse of the bluefin tuna population. This year, a 'recovery plan' for bluefin tuna will still allow legal fishing that is 47% above the upper sustainable limit.

Further Reading

- Read our recent report, Closed Cycle Bluefin Tuna: New Opportunities Are Born, by clicking here.