EU industrial tuna fishing boats reaching quota in a week is sign of massive overcapacity: WWF
High-tech purse seine fishing boats – whose vast sack-like nets encircle shoals of bluefin tunas as they gather to spawn – set off for the high seas on May 15th, but bad weather prevented them from catching any fish for the first ten days. The season was due to close a month later, on 15th June.
“This early closure of the EU’s Atlantic bluefin tuna purse seine fishery does not point to recovery of the fish – it points to the gross overcapacity of fleets,” said Dr Sergi Tudela, Head of Fisheries at WWF Mediterranean.
“That EU purse seine fleets have in the space of a week caught their whole annual quota of bluefin tuna in the Mediterranean is further proof that these boats are simply not appropriate for this fishery and that the whole operation is entirely unsustainable – not to mention economically unviable.”
France’s purse seiners, for example, had already caught 1,456 tonnes by June 8th – some 86 per cent of their quota for the year – while Spain’s had caught 728 tonnes, over 90 per cent of their quota.
“Purse seiners are so hyper efficient they leave no chance to the tunas they target in the peak spawning period when the fish are at their most fragile,” said Dr Tudela.
“The fact that these high-tech vessels are kept idle in port for more than 50 weeks a year is a total absurdity and shows the boats’ non-compatibility with a fish stock that is heavily depleted and in urgent need of recovery. The only reason the boat owners can afford to go out on the water at all is that they were largely built thanks to extensive EU subsidies in the first place.”
“WWF is calling for an immediate phase-out of purse seining in this fishery – and will use every lever at its disposal to push members of ICCAT when they meet in November in Paris to set the scrapping process in motion at once.”