The EU responsible for the collapse of bluefin tuna

Oceana calls for the immediate closure of the fishery, as stocks are condemned to collapse even if the fleet complies with 100% of the agreed quotas and management measures

Press Release Date: May 11, 2010

Location: Madrid


Marta Madina | email: | tel.: Marta Madina

The bluefin tuna fishing season begins today for the Mediterranean purse seiner fleet, under the auspices of management measures that supposedly guarantee control over the fleet, but in reality ignore scientific recommendations and authorize unsustainable catches. In addition, illegal catches abound and Oceana calls for the immediate closure of the fishery to halt the decline of the species.


An emblematic species in the Mediterranean, bluefin tuna are currently migrating through the Straits of Gibraltar to spawn in key areas of this sea, aggregating in areas south of the Balearic Islands, Sicily, Malta and in Libyan waters. The peak of this species’ spawning period is the end of May and June, months during which the purse seiner fleet takes maximum catches in these key areas. This fact constitutes one of the main causes for the decline in the bluefin tuna Eastern stock.


Xavier Pastor, Executive Director of Oceana in Europe says: “Overexploitation, illegal fishing and the irresponsibility of the Member states that reap the benefits from this fishery have taken this species to the brink of commercial collapse. Under the leadership of the EU, a new recovery plan has been implemented in 2009 that once again ignores scientific recommendations at the most critical point in time for the survival of this species, condemning it in favour of the industry.”

Oceana points out that the Recovery Plan implemented in 2006 was evaluated by ICCAT’s scientific committee and considered ineffective for the recovery of the species. The new plan, adopted in Marrakech last November and under which the fishery will be carried out this year, only reduces the TAC to 22% less than 2008 levels (TAC 22,000 t). Even without taking into account the high level of illegal fishing in the Mediterranean, this amount is unsustainable for the recovery of bluefin tuna stocks. Scientists have recommended maximum catches of 15,000 tons and the protection of the species during the spawning period in May and June.


Oceana affirms that the bluefin tuna fishery is condemned to commercial collapse even if there is 100% compliance with the current recovery plan.


Furthermore, illegal fishing has not been eliminated. Although the EU has promoted various commitments concerning fleet control, inspection and capacity, certain Member States including Italy and France exceeded their bluefin tuna quotas in 2007 and their fleets have been linked to illegal fishing practices in 2007 and 2008[1].


Xavier Pastor stated, “The EU cannot guarantee total control over its own fleet and much less control over third country fleets.” He concluded: “Given that Member States are incapable of guaranteeing sustainable exploitation of the species and the elimination of illegal fishing, the only option is to close the fishery.


Oceana has photographs and footage about bluefin tuna fishery


More information on Oceana’s position


[1]Joe Borg Statement. 20 June 2008.