WWF has welcomed the first positive signs of increases in the East Atlantic and Mediterranean bluefin tuna stock revealed in the recent scientific assessment by the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) which, if confirmed, would mean a turning point for this threatened species.
WWF is calling on decision makers attending the 2012 ICCAT Meeting next November in Agadir (Morocco) to strictly follow scientific advice and to maintain current management measures, including quotas, for at least the next three years. This is necessary to enable the bluefin tuna stock to achieve full recovery to sustainable levels in the coming years.
“We have been working and campaigning on the issue of bluefin tuna for 12 years so to finally see signs of a recovery trend is good news,” says Dr. Sergi Tudela, Head of the Fisheries Programme at WWF Mediterranean. “We need to see how the recovery trend progresses over time. In the meantime, we cannot lower our guard, management efforts need to be maintained and even strengthened. Bluefin tuna fisheries management will not become a success overnight.”
Despite the good news, ICCAT scientists warn of the high uncertainty surrounding the recent assessment of the stock and acknowledge that they do not know about the speed and extent of the detected recovery trend. For this reason they recommended to ICCAT to keep the current management rules – including the current total allowable catch (TAC) of 12,900 t- for the next years.
The millennia-old bluefin tuna fishery in the Mediterranean entered a phase of rapid and intense deterioration in the last decade of the 20th century, when the new practice of farming wild-caught tunas, formerly unknown in the Mediterranean, mushroomed without control.
This generated a perverse overfishing spiral as the growing demand for live large tunas fuelled the massive development of the industrial purse seine fleets and their expansion over virtually all Mediterranean waters where the bluefin tuna gathered to reproduce.
WWF was first to warn about this new threat and since 2001 has led the international campaign to avoid the collapse of the bluefin tuna population and to ensure rational and sustainable fishing activity.