WWF welcomes the first positive signs of stock increase in the East Atlantic and Mediterranean bluefin tuna stock revealed in the recent scientific assessment by the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) which –if confirmed- would mean a turning point for this threatened species.
WWF calls on decision makers attending the 2012 ICCAT Meeting in November in Agadir (Morocco) to strictly follow scientific advice and to maintain current management measures, including quotas, for at least the next three years. This is necessary to enable the bluefin tuna stock to achieve full recovery to sustainable levels in the coming years.
“We have been working and campaigning on the issue of bluefin tuna for 12 years so to finally see signs of a recovery trend is good news”, said Dr. Sergi Tudela, Head of the Fisheries Programme at WWF Mediterranean.
“We need to see how the recovery trend progresses over time. In the meantime, we cannot lower our guard, management efforts need to be maintained and even strengthened. Bluefin tuna fisheries management will not become a success overnight.”
Despite the good news, ICCAT scientists warn of the high uncertainty surrounding the recent assessment of the stock and acknowledge that they do not know about the speed and extent of the detected recovery trend. For this reason they recommended to ICCAT to keep the current management rules –including the current total allowable catch (TAC) of 12,900 t- for the next years.
The millennia-old bluefin tuna fishery in the Mediterranean entered a phase of rapid and intense deterioration in the last decade of the 20th century, when the new practice of farming wild-caught tunas, formerly unknown in the Mediterranean, mushroomed without control.
This generated a perverse overfishing spiral as the growing demand for live large tunas fuelled the massive development of the industrial purse seine fleets and their expansion over virtually all Mediterranean waters where the bluefin tuna gathered to reproduce.
“There is no doubt that the first positive signs of bluefin tuna stock increase derive from improved management of the fisheries. However, there is still concern about illegal fishing of bluefin tuna in the Mediterranean due to overcapacity and control loopholes. We have submitted cases to ICCAT again this year and several studies based on international trade also suggest actual catches more than doubling reported ones,” added Dr. Tudela.
WWF’s vision for the East Atlantic and Mediterranean bluefin tuna fishery is that of a stock sustainably managed the benefit of marine ecosystems, fisheries communities and consumers. Today we might be closer for this, something that would have seemed unthinkable only a few years ago. WWF calls on ICCAT parties to take responsibility and the fishing industry to build on this momentum and keep recovery ambitions high. Big achievements are long in the making but in only an instant can be lost.