Mediterranean bluefin tuna stock improving but caution still needed, say scientists
An update of the last Mediterranean bluefin tuna stock assessment was concluded on 3 October by ICCAT’s scientific committee, in preparation for its annual special meeting taking place 10-17 November when fishing rules and catch limits will be reconsidered. Though results remain uncertain, the assessment indicates that management efforts developed in recent years have resulted in an increase in population size, including the possibility that the stock might soon recover to sustainable levels.
“In spite of the high uncertainties surrounding the assessment, one thing appears clear today: the Mediterranean bluefin tuna stock is no longer at risk of collapse, and this is a direct result of ICCAT’s current fisheries recovery plan for the species,” said Dr Sergi Tudela, Head of Fisheries at WWF Mediterranean. “Strong concerns remain, however, particularly regarding the traceability of the fish from ocean to plate – and WWF strongly urges continued caution.
A cornerstone of the current recovery plan is ICCAT’s Bluefin Tuna Catch Document (BCD) which aims to ensure full traceability from catch to market, but better enforcement and more widespread checks are needed to ensure full implementation.
A recent WWF study concludes the current BCD system is plagued with shortcomings that compromise its ability to keep illegal bluefin products out of the market. The study also demonstrates that it does not meet the minimum standards required under European Union regulations to curb illegal fishing.
WWF’s study includes more than 50 concrete proposals to close loopholes and turn the current BCD scheme into a real tool to ensure traceability of bluefin tuna products.
“To ensure a sustainable fishery, reliable data is essential – but adequate ways to fight Illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing are also crucial,” said Dr Gemma Quilez Badía, WWF’s scientist attending the stock assessment and ICCAT scientific committee meeting in Madrid.
“Reforming ICCAT’s Bluefin Tuna Catch Document is a task of the utmost urgency to eradicate the illegal practices that have been plaguing this fishery, by ensuring only legal fish enters the global markets and ensuring seafood consumers around the world can be sure they are eating sustainable bluefin tuna,” said Quilez Badía.