Brussels, Belgium - New data released today by WWF, the global conservation organisation, reveal there is almost no more bluefin tuna to be fished in some of the oldest fishing grounds, especially in West Mediterranean. Around Spain’s Balearic islands, catches of bluefin tuna are down to only 15% of what they were just a decade ago.
In 1995 some 14,699 tonnes were caught there, mainly by French and Spanish fleets – while just 2,270 tonnes have been fished in the same waters this year.
Today’s data on the 2006 fishing season also reveal that Mediterranean bluefin tuna farms – which would usually be filling up by this time of the year – have experienced substantial decline. From 2006’s catches of wild Mediterranean tuna, some 22,520 tonnes have been put in captivity and farmed, a 25% reduction compared to 30,000 tonnes farmed last year. Six Spanish tuna ranches have already ceased operating altogether because there were simply no more tuna.
WWF will present the data today at the European Parliament’s Fisheries Committee, which is holding a special hearing on the bluefin tuna crisis.
For this occasion, fishermen from the traditional tuna trappers’ association in Spain - OPP51 - are joining WWF, calling on to the EU to take immediate action. “We fear for our jobs”, said OPP51 Director General Marta Crespo Márquez. “The EU has still not reacted to repeated warnings from scientists and we are looking to our elected representatives to take their responsibilities seriously”.
“These new data point to the risk of economic collapse in the Mediterranean bluefin tuna fishing and ranching sector”, warns Roberto Mielgo Bregazzi of ATRT (Advanced Tuna Ranching Technologies SL©®), who compiled the new data. “The Mediterranean bluefin tuna species is under threat, and many jobs in the tuna fishery are being jeopardised. The situation is alarming”.
The European Commission will represent EU Member States at the ICCAT (International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas) meeting in November – and as one of the most important players in the decision-making process, the EU can push for the protection of the Mediterranean bluefin tuna from further decline.
Today’s findings support WWF’s alarm call earlier this year that huge illegal activity is plundering the last remaining bluefin tuna and provide even more indication that collapse of the species may soon follow. WWF thus urges the Commission to support a strict recovery plan for the fishery, including: closure of industrial fishing during the spawning season to save the last reproducing fish – as advocated by ICCAT scientists; improved real-time monitoring of fishing and farming activity; compulsory observers on board all tuna vessels and in tuna farms; and the setting of a scientifically-based minimum catch size.
For further information
• Caroline Alibert, WWF European Policy Office
• Gemma Parkes, WWF Mediterranean Programme
Note to the editors
• Dr. Sergi Tudela, Head of WWF Fisheries Programme in the Mediterranean, Marta Crespo Márquez, Director General of the Tuna Trap Producers Organisation (OPP 51), and Roberto Mielgo Bregazzi, CEO of the Advanced Tuna Ranching Technologies (ATRT) will be available for interviews on the morning of the 12th September. To book please contact Caroline Alibert, Fisheries Communications Officer at WWF, Tel. +32-2-7400936, Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
• The bluefin tuna fishery season starts in April/May when the fish swim into the Mediterranean Sea from the Atlantic to spawn. Traditional tuna trappers catch them on their way into the sea. Then from May/June larger scale fishing methods are used to catch the fish in the high seas, which are then either transferred to tuna farms or transported directly out of the Mediterranean to the Japanese or other markets. The current closed season for the fishery is 15 July to 15 August. Tuna caught after this time is destined for Euro-Mediterranean consumption.
• ICCAT (International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas) meets for its annual plenary meeting in Croatia, from 17-27 November 2006.
• The study “The plunder of bluefin tuna in the Mediterranean and East Atlantic in 2004 and 2005 – Uncovering the real story” was conducted for WWF by independent consultancy Advanced Tuna Ranching Technologies (ATRT SL ©®™) and published on 5 July 2006.
• Pictures are available under embargo on the links below.
The images are copyright protected and can only be used to illustrate the related press release. Any other subsequent rights are not allowed and are subject to approval by WWF. This restriction includes that these pictures must not be made available to any third party, in particular it may under no circumstances be published on a public web site. Individual photo credits are mandatory.
Photo 1: http://assets.panda.org/downloads/500_tuna_trappers.jpg, Credit: © OPP51 (Tuna Trap Producers Organisation)
Photo 2 : http://assets.panda.org/downloads/bluefin_tuna.jpg, Credit: © M. San Felix
Photo 3: http://assets.panda.org/downloads/tuna_shooting.bmp, Credit: © Domestication of Thunnus Thynnus Symposium (DOTT) 2002, Cartegena, Spain