Tuna stocks sink – manage it right or lose it, warns WWF

Friday, August 3, 2007

Tuna across the world are fast disappearing, with important stocks at high risk of commercial extinction due to weak management, warns a WWF briefing ahead of the first meeting of government members of the world’s five tuna management organizations.

Despite efforts by some governments within tuna Regional Fisheries Management Organizations (RFMOs), populations of important species such as bluefin tuna are critically depleted. Atlantic bluefin, used for high-end sushi and sashimi, is massively overfished.

RFMOs are the main mechanism developed by countries to regulate fishing on the high seas – areas beyond national laws – where most tuna catches occur. WWF’s new briefing, Tuna in Trouble: Major Problems for the World’s Tuna Fisheries, reveals rampant illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, unsustainable quotas and far too many boats competing for the remaining tunas.

“Sustainable management of the world’s tuna fisheries should be possible, if the will can be found,” says Dr Sergi Tudela, Head of Fisheries at WWF Mediterranean. “But many governments are routinely ignoring scientific advice – as we witnessed at the 2006 meetings of ICCAT (International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas).”

“International fisheries representatives are failing to implement the recommended conservation and management measures, turning a blind eye to illegal fishing and not prosecuting those who flout the rules,” added Tudela.

The capacity of the world’s tuna fleet is now far greater than that needed to catch the legal quota. Disputes about the allocation of fishing quotas also tend to have a paralyzing impact on RFMOs. In a number of cases, quotas are ignored or simply increased to accommodate new entrants to the fishery.

Tuna RFMOs have also, in the main, failed to minimize the massive incidental catch, known as bycatch, of sharks, marine turtles, seabirds, small whales and dolphins. In 2000, tuna longline fisheries deployed an estimated 1.2 billion hooks targeting tuna but killing a range of other species.

“Solutions have been developed by a few RFMOs, resulting in a more sustainable approach,” adds Dr Simon Cripps, Director of WWF’s Global Marine Programme. “This week’s talks in Japan provide an opportunity for all interested nations to adopt approaches that ensure good practices to protect tuna and other marine life – as well as the wellbeing of coastal communities.”

Source: WWF
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