WWF, the global conservation organisation, deplores the failure of ICCAT (International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas) to adopt any compulsory measures to reverse the signs of imminent collapse in the Mediterranean and eastern Atlantic bluefin tuna fishery, despite the "shocking lack of control" evidenced again this year – and compelling warnings from scientists that collapse is imminent.
ICCAT, meeting this week in Antalya, Turkey, has wasted a precious
opportunity to impose some degree of order on a fishery that has
spiralled out of control, says WWF.
The 2007 season allegedly saw unprecedented reports of overfishing, under-reporting and laundering of catch, fishing activity during the
closed season, and the deployment of illegal spotter planes – yet even
such compounding evidence has not been sufficient to urge those
responsible for international fisheries management to take strong action to save the imperilled Mediterranean bluefin tuna, according to the conservation group.
“ICCAT has proved itself to be entirely incompetent – and has failed
again in its duty to sustainably manage our common marine resources,”
says Dr Sergi Tudela, Head of Fisheries at WWF Mediterranean, speaking
“ICCAT is on its death bed – but unfortunately another casualty here is the Mediterranean bluefin tuna. This week’s lack of action from ICCAT is bad news for the long-term survival of a millennial fishery, and could prove fatal for the tuna.”
Japan reportedly pushed forward the flimsy proposal adopted today at ICCAT in Turkey, whereby the industry players involved in the Mediterranean bluefin tuna business can – if they wish – attend a meeting in Tokyo, to brainstorm on the management of the fishery. This is said to be a formal acceptance by ICCAT of the market-driven, rather than science-driven, nature of management in this fishery.
The only glimmer of hope, says WWF, is the introduction by ICCAT of a ‘catch documentation’ scheme, to trace the fish from vessel to market – but WWF believes this feeble measure is too little, too late.
ICCAT was not bold enough to meet WWF’s urgent request for a moratorium, states the group.
The idea of a multi-annual closure of the Mediterranean bluefin tuna
fishery was however, reportedly tabled by the US – strongly supported by Canada, whose head delegate appropriately quoted the late Robert Kennedy: “If not us, who? If not now, when?” But other countries involved in the fishery are siad to have talked down the proposal, and even succeeded in getting an increased overall quota for the 2008 fishery.
Yet in Antalya this week, ICCAT’s independent scientific committee has
repeatedly stated yet again that collapse of Mediterranean bluefin tuna is imminent. “Latest estimates indicate that large adjustments to
current management measures would now be necessary to enable recovery – otherwise collapse is at this point probable,” the chairman of ICCAT’s scientific committee said in Antalya.
“The message from ICCAT’s own scientists is loud and clear – this
fishery is running headlong towards collapse,” adds WWF’s Dr Tudela.
“Yet even in this most critical of situations, ICCAT has failed to
find an appropriate solution – instead putting bluefin tuna management
directly in the hands of private operators.
“What hope remains for Mediterranean bluefin tuna? The situation is
Conservation group, Greenpeace has also hit out at ICCAT.
"ICCAT failed to take action to save the northern bluefin tuna today," states a press release sent out.
It continues: "Over the last 10 days, ICCAT debated the management of tuna species in the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea, where rampant overfishing and pirate fishing have pushed the bluefin species to the brink of collapse. Greenpeace had demanded that the northern bluefin tuna fishery be closed until stocks recover."
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