The WWF announced this week that since the Mediterranean tuna fishing season opened at the beginning of May, over 10 000 breeding bluefin tuna are being caught every day by the european industrial fishing fleet.This means that over 27 000 tonnes of bluefin tuna will have been taken by the end of this month - almost double the amount considered sustainable by fisheries scientists. The total allowable catch allocated to the EU for the entire year is 29 500 tonnes.
European Union fisheries regulators pledged to ban trawling in a matter of days if they saw overfishing of bluefin tuna in the Mediterranean next month. The EU's fishing capacity is so large and activity so concentrated in June that the fleet could exhaust the EU quota in just two days of fishing. The EU's overall bluefin tuna catch is administered by the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT), a global body overseeing the rules for tuna fishing.
One ICAAT official said "We need daily monitoring of catches. If the scenario is anything like last year, we need ultra-quick mechanisms". Currently catches are only inspected by ICCAT when they are landed in port or if the fishing company requests an onboard observer from ICAAT. ICAAT states: "Planning for and executing an observer deployment can be complex and time-consuming".
ICAAT also says however that"Poor compliance with existing measures remains one of the main root causes of overfishing in bluefin tuna fisheries".
In 2007, overfishing by the seven main EU countries that trawl for bluefin tuna -- Cyprus, France, Greece, Italy, Malta, Portugal and Spain -- caused the EU to exceed its international catch quota by 25 percent.
In the same week that this bad news came from the EU though, eight Pacific Island nations have signed an agreement to stop foreign fishing fleets taking their tuna. The move came out of the Palau Nauru Agreement (PNA) group meeting in Palau this week. The meeting of 17 Pacific countries, including Australia, announced the plan to stop boats from fishing for tuna in two large areas of international waters. Foreign fishing vessels licensed to fish in the waters of Micronesia, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Tuvalu will be banned from operating in two regions of the Pacific Commons adjacent to these countries. Since most Pacific tuna stocks - valued at US$3 billion a year - come from the waters of these countries, this will be a major contribution towards the protection of Pacific tuna. Greenpeace says that it also represents a giant stride towards making these areas into marine reserves. The meeting also announced a requirement for vessels fishing for tuna to retain their full catches, regardless of whether or not they are tuna stocks and a ban of the use of Fish Aggregating Devices (FADs).
These measures are designed to explicitly cut the tuna catch in the pacific. The retention of full catches, for example, is intended to cut the time fishing boats spend at sea. At present they throw away non-tuna stocks, allowing them to spend a much longer time at sea. "By adopting this measure, they will spend less time at sea, which means less fishing for tuna," PNA officials said.
Because Pacific island nations do not have enough money to properly protect their waters, pirate fishing is rife in the region. Globally pirates steal up to US$9 billion worth of fish from the region every year. A review carried out in 2006 of the Japanese market confirmed that there have been significant levels of unreported catches of Southern Bluefin Tuna for at least the past 20 years. It is estimated that up to 178 000 tonnes of unreported Southern Bluefin Tuna have been caught in that time.