Europe sits on damning bluefin tuna report
The existence of the report, revealed today by The Economist, undermines Europe's promise of support for strong action possibly including temporary closure of the fishery at the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) meeting in Marrakech, Morocco.
It also undermines European claims that it is bringing rampant bluefin overfishing under control, with a summary hurriedly produced after repeated demands from the European Parliament noting that extensive consultations with fishers and improved surveillance and inspections had little effect on the low priority industry gave to ICCAT rules.
“After decades of ignoring the science, ICCAT and member states are now trying to outdo each other in rhetoric about how much the science must matter,” said Dr Sergi Tudela, Fisheries director for WWF Mediterranean.
“The information gathered by Europe’s Community Fisheries Control Agency provides unprecedented data on the Mediterranean bluefin tuna fishery that would have been extremely precious for ICCAT scientists to make appropriate management recommendations.
“Shockingly, this valuable information has been kept hidden from scientists, thus undermining the quality of fisheries management advice – and the European Community, representing all EU Members States at ICCAT, must be held responsible for this.”
Earlier this year, WWF welcomed Europe's promise of vastly improved inspection and surveillance of the bluefin fleet and fattening farms by the CFCA, based in Vigo, Spain.
The Economist claims that a comprehensive CFCA report - the product of a €20 million investment in seeking to reign in the bluefin fishery - went to the European Commission in August and that an abbreviated version only was provided to the European Parliament’s Fisheries Commission earlier this month.
The abbreviated version is alarming enough, noting that “the level of apparent infringements detected in the tugs and the purse seiner fleet is considerable”, “the (illegal) use of spotter planes for searching bluefin tuna concentrations is still wide spread” and “as regards the recording and reporting of bluefin tuna catches . . . the ICCAT rules have not been generally respected”.
European Fisheries Commissioner Joe Borg has said that the last management rules for this beleaguered fishery – agreed at a previous ICCAT meeting in Dubrovnik in 2006 – would work, as long as there was compliance with the rules.
“This latest evidence of widespread non-compliance, information that has been hidden from ICCAT scientists and decision-makers, should be case enough that the only solution now is to close the Mediterranean bluefin tuna fishery – pending a complete overhaul of the fiasco,” Dr Tudela said.