EU Commissioner calls for drastic cuts in bluefin quotas

Posted by Nicole Eckersley on 21st October 2010

The European Union’s Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries has called for a significant cut in catches of East Atlantic bluefin tuna in the Mediterranean and East Atlantic, ahead of the EU’s leadership role at a major fisheries management meeting next month.

Commissioner Maria Damanaki announced her support of a substantial decrease in next year’s total allowable catch of the controversial fish yesterday in Strasbourg, at a meeting of the Greens of the European Parliament.

WWF, the global conservation organisation, welcomed the move and called upon the members of next month’s meeting, the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) to agree on a recovery plan for the Eastern Atlantic bluefin tuna population.

“Commissioner Damanaki is laying out what could be a possible rescue plan for the Atlantic bluefin tuna fishery based on science and not politics,” said Tony Long, Director of WWF’s European Policy Programme in Brussels.

“We call on Member States to follow this lead to secure a long-term future for a sustainable artisanal fishery and a thriving marine ecosystem. The EU Commissioner is showing a way forward that counteracts strong pressure from short-term business interests.”

A recent scientific assessment of East Atlantic bluefin tuna by ICCAT scientists has shown that stock size is only one third of sustainable levels, and that only a total fishing quota of less than 6,000 tonnes per year might allow the tuna stock to rebuild by 2020 with a probability of over 60 per cent. The scientists also urged ICCAT to be especially precautionary this year, given the high uncertainty in data available – a result of the poor quality of reporting, related to rife illegalities.

The EU, including all Member States, is legally obliged through its Marine Strategy Framework Directive to immediately establish measures aimed at achieving recovery of fish stocks to sustainable levels by 2020 at the latest.

Besides cutting total annual catch to below 6,000 tonnes, the WWF has also called on the EU and other ICCAT members to suspend the industrial purse seine fishery – responsible for the current catastrophic situation of the stock – and to establish no-fishing zones in the six known spawning grounds of bluefin tuna in the Mediterranean Sea.

“This package of measures gives at least a chance of recovery to East Atlantic bluefin tuna,” said Dr Sergi Tudela, Head of Fisheries at WWF Mediterranean. “It is high time to show the world that Europe, with its historical role in willingly allowing the depletion of tuna stocks, is ready for a U-turn by leading on the recovery of Atlantic bluefin.”