Greenpeace ‘halt’ to bluefin fishing

The campaigning environmental group Greenpeace Tuesday called for an immediate halt to bluefin tuna fishing in the Mediterranean, arguing that fish stocks were in danger of being wiped out this year.

“The bluefin tuna fishery is totally out of control,” said Sebastian Losada, Greenpeace Spain oceans campaigner, in Malta, from where the group’s ship Rainbow Warrior is preparing to set out to confront tuna fleets in the region.

Losada said governments had failed to guarantee the sustainability of the tuna stocks, which are essential not only for the marine ecosystems but also for the Mediterranean region’s economy and culture.

“All fleets should be called back to port. Otherwise, this could be the last year for the bluefin tuna fishery in the Mediterranean,” he said in a Greenpeace statement.

Some experts have warned that that only catches below 15,000 tonnes would allow the tuna population to start recovering. Despite that, the 42-nation International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna (ICCAT) approved last November a quota of 29,500 tonnes for 2007, Greenpeace said.

Measures to stop illegal catches would not come into force until after this year’s fishing season, which might be too late to save the tuna stocks, it added.

Trap fisheries in the waters between Spain and Morocco for example, had only caught 20 percent of what they hauled in at the same point in 2006, which in itself was a year of very low catches.

“There is an urgent need for radical change in the way our oceans are managed,” said Francois Provost, Greenpeace France oceans campaigner.

Greenpeace is advocating a global network of marine reserves covering 40 percent of the world’s oceans.

“The creation of marine reserves is the only way to both protect and restore the marine environment and to allow exploited fish stocks to recover,” Provost said.

According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), over three quarters of all commercially valuable fish stocks are already fully exploited, overexploited or depleted.

Other environmental groups including WWF have warned of the need for conservation measures and a crackdown on illegal catches to save the bluefin tuna from disappearing in the Mediterranean.

Source: AFP News Brief