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June 16, 2008

The Fishing Season is Now Closed

BY: Keith Ellenbogen


©OCEANA/ Keith Ellenbogen


As of June 16, 2008 the Atlantic Bluefin Tuna (Thunnus Thynnus) fishing season has been officially closed in the Mediterranean by the European Commission due to non-compliance by member states within the Atlantic Bluefin Tuna Recovery Plan.

Read the European Commission Press Release

Government officials, scientists and non-profit organizations have estimated that the fishing industry in just 30 days has already reached the quota of 29,500 tones of Atlantic Bluefin Tuna. Recognizing there is not an endless supply of Atlantic Bluefin Tuna, the European Commission closed the fishing season — ahead of schedule — to allow the remaining breeding bluefin tuna in the Mediterranean to reproduce for a sustainable future.

Looking to the future one thing each of us can do — that will have a positive impact for the Atlantic Bluefin Tuna and the marine environment — is to reduce our individual consumption of the endangered Atlantic Bluefin Tuna.

Departing Malta — In Search of Illegal Fishing

As we depart Malta our campaign objective to protect the Atlantic Bluefin Tuna from over exploitation and fishing is now more critical then ever. With fisherman capable of catching over 10,000 breeding Atlantic Bluefin Tuna each day — it is imperative that populations are protected for future generations.

Expedition leader Xavier Pastor explained to our team that tensions are high between international regulatory agencies and the fishing industry. From the fisherman’s point of view the Atlantic Bluefin Tuna is a commodity and one that is very valuable. While we are optimistic the European industrial purseiners will stop fishing the likelihood is they will continue to fish — but now ILLEGALLY.

Thirty nautical miles from Malta we observed and photographed the following fishing boats: Luigi Padre (TP 762), Essaida Jannet (SF 2541); Abr Albihar (1408), Maria Antonietta (SA 57), SP 250, Abr Albihar (1407), Serter Ahmet 1. Two of the fishing boats had nets in the water and the others appeared to be searching for additional schools of tuna.

In the late afternoon, our small team of photographers and videographers prepared to depart in the grey rubber inflatable boat (RIB) for a closer inspection of the fishing fleet. As we were descending the ladder onto the RIB the Luigi Padre from Italy sailed within 10 meters of our boat – no words were exchanged just a close inspection. In the RIB Cesar Fuertes, Operations Coordinator looks onward as we navigate in close proximity around a number of fishing boats — illegally fishing in the case of the Italians.

Throughout the night we will continue to monitor their activity and report their actions to the proper authorities.