Bluefin tuna populations have declined alarmingly over the past few decades due to overfishing fuelled by an increasingly expensive industry.

A new WWF report shows that the international fleets hunting this species to extinction have twice the fishing capacity of current quotas and are netting more than three and a half times the catch levels recommended by scientists to avoid stock collapse.

“WWF’s new report uncovers the absurdity of a system long out of control, where hundreds of hi-tech boats are racing to catch a handful of fish,” says Dr Sergi Tudela, Head of Fisheries at WWF Mediterranean.

“It is crazy – the numerous new fleets are so modern and costly that fishermen are forced to fish illegally just to survive – and worse still they are fishing themselves out of a job,” added Tudela.

To keep fishing capacity within the 2008 legal catch limits imposed by the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT), the Mediterranean fleet would need to shed 229 vessels – almost a third of the current 617-vessel fleet. Reducing fishing effort to scientifically recommended levels would require the decommissioning of 283 vessels.

WWF is calling on concerned countries to dramatically reduce capacity in this fishery as a matter of urgency ahead of the 2008 fishing season that starts at the end of April.

WWF also urges ICCAT, the body tasked with sustainably managing the fishery, to take a lead in proposing radical solutions. Until the fishery is under control and sustainably managed, WWF continues to advocate a fishing ban – and to applaud responsible retailers, restaurants, chefs and consumer groups who are boycotting Mediterranean bluefin in increasing numbers.

“The fishery is unsustainable in every way – economically, socially, and ecologically. When will the situation be brought under control? The time to act is now – while there are still bluefin tuna to save in the Mediterranean,” Tudela concluded.

What can you do? If you want to buy a tin of tuna off the supermarket shelf don’t worry – you almost never find bluefin tuna in a tin. Most tinned tuna is yellowfin or skipjack. If you buy fresh tuna ask your fishmonger whether the tuna is Atlantic bluefin, and whether it comes from the Mediterranean. If it does come from the Med, don’t buy it. And at the Japanese restaurant check where they source the Atlantic bluefin tuna. If it is from the Mediterranean, avoid it.

Note: the tuna caught in the Med is called “Atlantic Bluefin Tuna” (Thunnus thynnus). Don’t think that because it has the word Atlantic in the name that means it was caught there.

Further Reading:
Bluefin tuna in crisis
Race for the last bluefin: Capacity of the purse seine fleet targeting bluefin tuna in the Mediterranean


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