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May 31, 2008

Bonding with the sea

BY: Keith Ellenbogen


©OCEANA/ Keith Ellenbogen


Many people ask me why we are following these purseiners bluefin tuna fishing boats? What do we hope to accomplish?

“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not” — Dr. Seuss, The Lorax

The first problem to address is tuna populations are seriously declining. These are not fabricated numbers or stories. It is real and worse yet really happening. Only two generations ago the tuna populations used to be healthy. Today they are in the eve of colapse.

What scientists, governments and non-profit organizations like Oceana are trying to do is enforce sustainable fishing quotas for a sustainable future. That is to say we want to maintain populations so that there will be bluefin tuna for future generations.

Check these facts out

• Beginning of May the Mediterranean fishing season opens

• An estimated, 10,000 bluefin tuna are caught each day by commercial fishermen.

• An estimated 27,000 tons of bluefin tuna will potentially have been caught by end of May.

• International Fishing Law permits 29,500 tons of bluefin tuna to be caught during the season from May – June.

• International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT, the body mandated to ensure the sustainable management of the Mediterranean bluefin tuna fishery), estimates that maximum catch should be of some 15,000 tones per year

(These facts were published by WWF in Bluefin Tuna Bulletin #47 May 23, 2008)

To put this number in perspective in less than one month of fishing it is estimated they caught 27,000 tons of bluefin tuna. This is virtually their entire quota in less than on month. For the entire season they are allowed to catch 29,500 tons of bluefin tuna. In simple terms its crazy. In fact this number is double what leading scientists consider sustainable fishing practice. At this rate there will be no tuna that can reach a size to breed to replenish their numbers.

Like an addict looking for his/her next fix the fisherman can not slow down their appetite to catch more and more of the bluefin tuna. In fairness it’s not just the fisherman but also the general publics demand.

What you can do?

I urge each of you to reduce your consumption for bluefin tuna

More to follow on the fishing industry as well as the habits and behaviors of what makes the bluefin tuna so special.

Expedition Log:

In the middle of the night we lost the purseiner fishing boats. This was not unexpected. Expedition leader Xavier Pastor thought that perhaps the fishing boats returned to Formentera Island late last night to anchor in the bay. With the break of light at 5:30 am the captain set our course direction back to Formentera Island. When we arrived at around 11 am the two purseiners (left, Gerald Jean IV MA-916469, Marseille; right, Gerard Luc IV ST 900236 were anchored in the bay.

For the rest of the afternoon we enjoyed swimming in the Mediterranean. One of the more exciting photographs today was a moment of luck — that revealed dive team member Alberto Iglesias’s head poking out a ball of small air bubbles after jumping off the side of the Oceana/Marviva into the blue, crystal clear, and relatively cold water.