Swordfish and Bluefin Tuna continue to slip through ICCAT net | WWF

Swordfish and Bluefin Tuna continue to slip through ICCAT net

Posted on 15 November 1999    
Madrid, Spain - Spain and other fishing nations continue to catch undersized Swordfish and Bluefin Tuna in breach of international law. A report issued today by WWF, the conservation organization, and TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring programme of WWF and IUCN, the World Conservation Union, concludes that this threatens the future viability of these fisheries.

As the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) holds its annual meeting in Brazil this week, WWF and TRAFFIC are urging the fishing nations to bring fisheries in the Eastern Atlantic and in the Mediterranean under effective control. As a first step they are calling on governments to agree on recovery plans for Swordfish and Bluefin Tuna.

Surveys carried out by TRAFFIC at Spanish landing sites show that 83 percent of the Bluefin Tuna landed from the Mediterranean and over half of those landed from the Eastern Atlantic were below the minimum size limits* set by ICCAT to protect fish stocks. More than one third of the Swordfish caught in the North Atlantic were smaller than the allowed size limits. ICCAT limits do not apply to Swordfish in the Mediterranean, but 86 percent of those observed were below the minimum size set elsewhere.

"The evidence is clear that crucial implementation and enforcement gaps remain in ICCAT and in European Union conservation and fishing regulations"' said Caroline Raymakers, co-author of the report from TRAFFIC Europe. "ICCAT needs to urgently establish strict measures to manage Swordfish fisheries in the Mediterranean and set up programmes to record by-catch."

The report also points out that Swordfish longlining is contributing to a considerable amount of shark by-catch. Investigators found that two thirds of the observed fish landed from Swordfish longliners were sharks. The report urges ICCAT to address the damage caused by Swordfish longlining.

While Spain's position in these fisheries is prominent, it is not the only fishing nation that is landing undersized Swordfish and Bluefin Tuna. France, Italy, Japan and Morocco amongst others also reported catch levels of undersized fish exceeding the tolerance limit set by ICCAT, in many cases by greater amounts than Spain.

"Overcapacity, fuelled by subsidies, is contributing to overfishing, which results in undersized fish being caught," said Juan Carlos del Olmo, head of WWF-Spain. "This not only jeopardises the future of these fisheries, but also the livelihoods of the Spanish fishermen who depend on them."

WWF and TRAFFIC are calling for ICCAT to set strict annual catch quotas for each fishing nation in the Atlantic and in the Mediterranean, and to penalize countries that fail to comply with ICCAT's rules. All nations involved in these fisheries are urged to step-up their efforts to provide the legal measures and enforcement effort required to ensure compliance with ICCATs conservation rules.

For more information:

Simone de Manso, WWF International, tel +41 22 364 9553, sdemanso@wwfnet.org

Maija Sirola, TRAFFIC International, tel +44 1223 277 427 maija.sirola@trafficint.org

Notes to editors:

  • Minimum size measurements specified by ICCAT for Bluefin Tuna is 6.4kg and by EU 6.4kg/70cm for the entire Atlantic and Mediterranean. Minimum size measurements for Swordfish by ICCAT are 25kg or 125cm in the North and South Atlantic and 120cm in the Mediterranean by EU. ICCAT has not to the date set a minimum size measurement for Swordfish in the Mediterranean.

For the full report and recommendations see www.traffic.org or http://www.panda.org/resources/publications/water/ic-background.html

Swordfish Stake-Out VNR available from WWF International or TRAFFIC International.

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