Oceana welcomes Spain and Japan backing for Mediterranean tuna fishery closure at the IUCN congress

Oceana calls for consistent measures be supported by the EU at the upcoming ICCAT meeting.

Press Release Date: December 17, 2013

Location: Madrid


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Oceana, the international marine conservation organisation, welcomes the newly adopted International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Barcelona Congress Motion on the closure of the bluefin tuna fishery in the Mediterranean and the establishment of dedicated reserves in key areas, including the Balearic Islands, considered as critical habitat for the species reproduction.

The Motion recommends the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna (ICCAT[1]) to, among others, ”Immediately establish an interim suspension of the East Atlantic and Mediterranean Bluefin Tuna fishery and “to set up protection zones for spawning grounds in the Mediterranean including the waters within the Balearic Sea, Central Mediterranean, and Levant Sea, during the spawning season”. Spain and Japan voted in favour of the Motion, initially proposed by the Government of the Balearic Islands and WWF.

According to Xavier Pastor, marine biologist and Executive Director of Oceana Europe, “Spain must now continue to contribute to the recovery of bluefin tuna stocks. The government must now work intensely within the EU so that the European Commission promotes, within the ICCAT framework, a similar proposal to the motion approved by Spain at IUCN Congress.”

Oceana congratulates the Spanish Minister for the Environment, Rural and Marine Affairs and calls on the Spanish Government to now keep the same line when negotiating the EU position for the November Marrakesh meeting of ICCAT. An early tuna fishery closure was already decided by the European Commission in June because of evidence that quotas were exceeded and illegal fishing taking place.

Oceana researchers documented massive fishing operations south of the Spanish Balearic Island of Formentera, with concentrations of up to 30 ships including Spanish and French industrial purseiners, tug boats and support vessels acting simultaneously within a radius of two miles, on a concentration of bluefin tuna in a known reproduction area. From the Oceana research vessel, the Marviva Med, crew members observed the presence of a Cessna “push-pull” aircraft, like the ones usually used illegally to detect bluefin tuna banks and transmit the information to the fishing fleet. Similar situations were detected south of Malta and north of Libya, from which cages full of tuna were hauled to European countries. Oceana documented the presence of Italian, French, Greek, Turkish, Croatian, Algerian and Libyan vessels in areas of the central and eastern Mediterranean.

Traditionally, the Balearic Islands have constituted the most important area in the world to catch bluefin tuna. Overfishing by industrial purseiner fleets that are disproportionate to the size of bluefin tuna stocks and which are financed by European governments has caused a significant decline in bluefin tuna populations to dangerously low levels. This may lead to its disappearance, unless immediate measures are adopted by I|CCAT, like the ones recommended by the IUCN.

During the last year, Oceana has been working to achieve the approval of this proposal. During the fishing season, in a joint project with the Marviva Foundation, the organisation has carried out an expedition to document the bluefin tuna fishery in the Mediterranean. The campaign was carried out on board the Marviva Med research vessel and more than 7,000 miles were covered.

ICCAT scientists have recently highlighted the risks of collapse of the bluefin tuna in the Mediterranean (see Oceana press release of 6th October 2008 on www.oceana.org).