WWF Believe Atlantic Bluefin Trade Ban Is Vital16 November 2009
BRAZIL - The Atlantic tuna commission has come up with only inadequate or delayed actions to ensure the recovery of the eastern Atlantic bluefin tuna, the global conservation organisation World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has warned.
The International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas has endorsed a proposal from its chair, the EU, Japan, Morocco and Tunisia to drop the 2010 eastern bluefin quota from 19,500 tonnes to 13,500 tonnes. WWF believe these quota changes are still too high to enable stock recovery, they say saving the tuna will now depend largely on an international trade ban due to be discussed in March.
A key study presented to ICCAT in Recife showed even a strictly enforced 8,000-tonne quota would have only a 50 per cent chance of achieving a recovery in eastern Atlantic bluefin tuna by 2023 and another ICCAT study showed only a total fishing halt yielded significant chances of the bluefin population to recover enough to no longer qualify for high-level trade restrictions by 2019.
WWF are urging member countries of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) to line up behind global trade restrictions on Atlantic bluefin tuna. CITES is to consider a Principality of Monaco proposal that bluefin be listed for the highest level of trade restrictions at a meeting in Doha next March.
“This outcome is entirely unscientific – and entirely unacceptable,” said Dr Sergi Tudela, Head of Fisheries at WWF Mediterranean. “This reduction of allowable catch is not based on any particular scientific advice to recover the stock with high probability – it is just an arbitrary political measure and only for one year. Now more than ever WWF sees a global trade ban as the only hope for Atlantic bluefin.”
Dr Tudela said a new provision for a 2011 fishery closure if the fishery was detected as being at serious risk of collapse was difficult to reconcile with the scientific committee’s recent data that the stocks are already at less than 10-15 per cent than unfished levels. “The trends for bluefin tuna are very clear and we need to act on the forward view rather than the rear mirror view to avoid collapse,” Dr Tudela said.
WWF had lobbied the meeting for a fishing suspension and determined action against illegal fishing, estimated to considerably inflate the most recent (2008) catch estimates of 34,120 tonnes. During the Recife meeting almost all harvesting countries were formally identified by ICCAT for breaking its rules – like EU tuna fattening farms accepting fish without proper documentation.
The massive overcapacity of industrial fleets in the Mediterranean also continues to hamper conservation efforts, yet the problem remains insufficiently addressed by the tuna commission, say WWF.
The season for industrial fishing for bluefin tuna with purse seine fleets was reduced from two months to one, but remains open during the peak of the spawning period of 15 May to 15 June when the tuna are most vulnerable. WWF accuse ICCAT of continuing to ignore long-standing calls to establish sanctuaries in key bluefin tuna spawning grounds such as the Balearic Islands off Spain.
“Common sense says that a trade ban supported by a temporary fishing closure is currently what is needed for the recovery of Atlantic tuna,” Dr Tudela said. “To close the fishery is what ICCAT needed to do to save the tuna and to save its own reputation.”
Dr Tudela called on CITES member countries “not to be fooled by ICCAT’s promises to save Atlantic bluefin tuna in the coming years. We have seen too many empty promises in ICCAT’s forty years of not conserving tuna. The tuna commission has failed in the most crucial moment of its history – how can it be expected of anything better? Now is the time for action elsewhere”.
WWF also condem ICCAT for allowing contracting parties to endorse a further two years of the use by Morocco of illegal driftnets to catch swordfish. The nets, known widely as ‘walls of death’, kill 4,000 dolphins and 25,000 sharks in Mediterranean waters every year.
Bans on driftnets are covered in a large array of international agreements dating back to 1992 and including the UN, ICCAT, the EU which is the main market for the Moroccan swordfish, and Morocco itself.
“This year all contracting parties talked of the need to restore ICCAT’s credibility, and to do so they endorse the slaughter of 50,000 more sharks and 8,000 dolphins, violating UN resolutions? It is beyond belief, and is one more proof of the total dysfunction of ICCAT as a serious fisheries management organization,” said Dr Tudela.
ICCAT was also unable to agree on substantial measures to protect vulnerable shark species.
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