Spain, Japan back bluefin tuna ban



Posted on 13 October 2008  | 
Barcelona, Spain: Key fishing state Spain and key tuna market Japan joined with a majority of other countries to back closing the Mediterranean Bluefin Tuna fishery until it can be brought under control and establishing protected areas in the main breeding grounds.

The surprise vote tonight, by government and NGO members of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) at the World Conservation Congress in Barcelona, also calls for catch quotas to be nearly halved in line with scientific advice and for permanent fishing bans for May and June covering the entire spawning season.

“We didn't know this would pass, let alone pass so overwhelmingly,” said Dr Sergi Tudela, Head of Fisheries in WWF’s Mediterranean office. “Common sense is now promising to bring an end to the real shame in the international system of fisheries management .

“The message that we need to close the fishery now or have few fish and no fishery into the future is now coming from scientists, from consumers, from communities and from countries.”

The motion adds considerably to the pressure on International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) which decides on the future of the fishery in November, within two months of its own internal expert review labelling the management of the Mediterranean bluefin tuna fishery “an international disgrace”.

It also follows a WWF report earlier this year that the tuna fishing capacity was at twice quota levels and a further report last week that Italy's largely unregulated fleet was in flagrant violation of the fishery rules.

Last month, ICCAT scientists also warned the Mediterranean Bluefin Tuna population was on the brink of collapse. A retailers' boycott of Mediterranean Bluefin Tuna, supported by WWF, is spreading throughout Europe.

The tuna motion, initially bitterly opposed by some countries that later voted for it, was put up by WWF, Ecologistas en Acción, GOB, SEO/Birdlife and the Government of the Baleric Islands, which is proposed as one of the bluefin tuna sanctuaries.

“ICCAT needs to heed the claim from the international community to save the Mediterannean Bluefin Tuna,” Dr Tudela said.

“This year's meeting will be the last real chance for ICCAT to show to the world it deserves the mandate given by society to manage this fisheries and avoid the collapse of the species.”

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