Tag Archives: Tuna

Bluefin tuna still largely unprotected as conservation conference ends

29 Nov

article Guardian.co.uk

Environmental groups criticize ‘measly’ 4% reduction in fishing quota, which they say will do little to protect declining stocks which are also under threat from illegal fishing

Fisherman land a bluefin tuna Conservation groups had hoped to see bluefin tuna fishing quotas slashed or suspended, but the quota was reduced by a mere 4%. Photograph: Jeffrey L Rotman/Corbis

An international conservation conference in Paris made progress this Saturday on protecting sharks but didn’t do anything to save the Atlantic bluefin tuna, which has been severely overfished to feed the market for sushi in Japan, environmental groups said.

Delegates from 48 nations spent 11 days in Paris haggling over fishing quotas for the Atlantic and Mediterranean, poring over scientific data and pitting the demands of environmentalists against those of the fishing industry.

Conservation groups said delegates took steps in the right direction with moves to protect oceanic whitetip sharks and many hammerheads in the Atlantic, though they had hoped for more. Sharks were once an accidental catch for fishermen but have been increasingly targeted because of the growing market in Asia for their fins, an expensive delicacy used in soup.

WWF, Greenpeace, Oceana and the Pew Environment Group all strongly criticised the 2011 bluefin quotas set by the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas, or ICCAT, which manages tuna in the Atlantic and Mediterranean as well as species that have traditionally been accidental catches for tuna fishermen.

Environmental groups had hoped to see bluefin fishing slashed or suspended, saying illegal fishing is rampant in the Mediterranean and that scientists don’t have good enough data to evaluate the problem.

The commission agreed to cut the bluefin fishing quota in the eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean from 13,500 to 12,900 metric tonnes annually about a 4% reduction. It also agreed on measures to try to improve enforcement of quotas on bluefin, prized for its tender red meat.

Sergi Tudela, head of WWF Mediterranean’s fisheries program, attacked the “measly quota reduction.” Oliver Knowles, Greenpeace oceans campaigner, complained that “the word ‘conservation’ should be removed from ICCAT’s name.”

Russell F Smith, representing the US delegation, said: “I think we made some progress. I wish we’d made more.”

Meanwhile, the CNPMEM French fishing industry union praised the decision, saying “reason prevailed.”

The international commission’s committee of scientists had said keeping the status quo was acceptable, but environmentalists say there is so much unreported fishing that doing so is irresponsible.

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Brazilian Divers Protest Against Shark Finning And Tuna Commission Inaction On Shark Massacres

27 Nov

from underwatertimes.com

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil — A thousand shark fins cut from black cardboard, representing just five minutes of the world´s shark fisheries, dotted the sands of Copacabana Beach this Saturday to protest the indiscriminate killing of sharks to feed the Asian shark fin trade.

Promoted by Divers for Sharks, a coalition of diving industry and recreational divers in 128 countries and based in Brazil, the protest is the first in a series of demonstrations and awareness activities scheduled to coincide with the meeting of ICCAT, the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna. Environmentalists and the diving industry have accused ICCAT of being deaf to their requests for stricter regulations to prevent catching sharks in tuna long-lines and the practice of ‘shark finning’, where fins are removed from sharks and the body dumped overboard. Recently, fins from an estimated 280,000 sharks were confiscated by Brazilian authorities from a contraband shipment bound to China from the Northern State of Pará.

 

“Politicians and bureaucrats as those irresponsible ICCAT officers only listen to the fishing industry lobby, but there are thousands of jobs and millions of dollars generated by the non-consumptive diving industry that benefit coastal communities in developing countries that have to be taken into account. Sharks are a major diving attraction and are are fast disappearing from diving sites, endangering jobs for people who protect the marine environment while ICCAT and other international fora only protect the interests of the industrial fishing corporations”, said Paulo Guilherme Alves Cavalcanti, a Brazilian dive operator and co-founder of Divers for Sharks.

Sharks have become globally threatened by finning to supply Asian markets where affluent people pay astonishing prices for shark fin soup, a tasteless dish associated with wealth in some cultures. With many countries now taking measures to protect sharks in their waters, Brazil, with unregulated and barely enforced fisheries and border controls, has become a major target for the shark fin contraband mafias, and also supplies shark fins legally for export by the thousands.

Brazilian marine conservation activist and writer José Truda Palazzo, Jr., who co-founded Divers for Sharks with Paulo Cavalcanti, said that “it is shameful that ICCAT is presiding over the demise of the Atlantic sharks and that other regional fisheries agreements are doing the same the world over. Industrial fishing has become a criminal mining industry, and it´s time the people to learn about it and stop its abuses before it´s too late.”

ICCAT is meeting in France from the 17 to 27 of November, and is expected to give little attention to the plight of threatened or endangered species caught in the oceanic fisheries it manages.

Divers for Sharks has pledged to raise public awareness about the plight of sharks and their importance to the diving industry health worldwide. The protest in Rio should be a major eye-opener for lawmakers to watch the poor performance of international fisheries agreements and to take urgent action to save sharks and other marine species from extinction.

For more information please visit Divers for Sharks on Facebook.

Sea Shepherd activists free hundreds of threatened bluefin tuna off Libya

22 Oct

Steve Irwin crew throws rotten butter during confrontation with Italian and Libyan fishermen over endangered bluefin catch

Why anti-whaling campaigners are the bluefin tuna’s last hope

Sea Shepherd activist cuts blue tuna fishing net during Mediterranean Bluefin Tuna Defense Campaign Sea Shepherd activist cuts the bluefin tuna fishing net in the Mediterranean. Photograph: Simon Ager/Sea ShepherdGreen activists using helicopters, divers and rotten butter yesterday confronted Libyan and Italian fishermen to release hundreds of threatened bluefin tuna which they strongly suspect were illegally caught off the Libyan coast.

In the first action of its kind in north African waters, the international crew of the California-based Sea Shepherd Conservation Society released around 800 tuna from a cage being towed behind the Italian trawler Cesare Rustico.

Stocks of bluefin tuna, one of the most valuable but endangered fish in the Mediterranean, have been decimated by ruthless overfishing in the last 20 years to the point where they are now unlikely to survive more than a few more years. Catches are limited to two weeks of the year and shipowners have been given strict quotas by governments, but with little policing, the industry has been easily able to flaunt the law.

In a statement from the boat, Captain Paul Watson said: “Sea Shepherd’s helicopter reconnaissance flight this morning found two fishing vessels. One was engaged in transferring bluefin tuna into one of the two nets being towed by the other vessel.

“The captain of the Cesare Rustico said when questioned that the tuna were caught on the morning of the 14th by the Libyan vessel Tagreft. When we replied that the number of tuna in the cage exceeded the quota for the Tagreft, the captain said the cage also included tuna from seven other Libyan seiners. All the catches were caught on the 14th, the last legal day, according to the captain.

“The problem with this explanation was that we had observed … weather conditions for those two days made fishing virtually impossible.

“The extremely difficult conditions, coupled with the position of the cages only 40 miles off the Libyan coast, when they should have been moving 25 miles a day, suggested to us that the fish were freshly caught within the last three days at the most.”

The Sea Shepherd, which annually confronts Japanese whalers in the Antarctic waters, then asked to examine the fish for juveniles. “We were refused. I then put the bow of the Steve Irwin onto the cage so we could look into the cage from the bow to examine it further.

“Suddenly, the Maltese vessel Rosaria Tuna rammed the Steve Irwin on the aft port side and slid alongside the port rail, as a fisherman tried to violently gaff Sea Shepherd crewmembers with a long, sharp-hooked pole.”

In the ensuing fracas, the Steve Irwin crew crew retaliated throwing rotten butter at the fishermen, and then sent divers into one of the cages to identify the size, age, and quantity of the bluefin tuna caught.

“Once it was clearly established that the cage was overstocked and that a high percentage were juveniles, Sea Shepherd divers freed the 700-800 tuna,” said Watson.

“It is our position that the bluefin tuna we freed from that cage held a large number of juveniles and that the fish were caught after the official closure of the season. It is also our position that the fish that we freed exceeded the quota,” said Watson.

“They shot out of that net like racehorses,” said Canadian cameraman Simon Ager.

Showdown on Bluefin Tuna

17 Oct

Article By JOHN COLLINS RUDOLF AND DAVID JOLLY
@ New York Times

A bluefin tuna is harvested from a tuna farm off the Calabrian coast in Italy

A bluefin tuna is harvested from a tuna farm off the Calabrian coast in Italy

In advance of an annual meeting of bluefin tuna fishing nations next month in Paris, scientists and environmental groups are sharply questioning the validity of scientific data being used to set catch levels for the fish, which remains highly coveted as sushi but is increasingly threatened by commercial overfishing.

A scientific panel convened in March by the international commission that regulates the Atlantic bluefin catch suggested that this year’s quota not exceed last year’s limit of 13,500 tons. Such a catch would give bluefin stocks a 60 percent chance of recovering by 2019, the panel said.

But many national fisheries continue to ignore their obligation to provide accurate data on how many bluefin they land each year, making accurate quotas virtually impossible to produce, outside observers assert.

“Some years, some countries don’t report,” Brad Smith, a marine ecologist with the Pew Environment Group, said in an interview. “Or they report too late. Or they underreport. When there’s so much non-compliance, nobody complains.”

According to Pew, more than 85 percent of countries failed to meet reporting deadlines or to accurately report data on their bluefin tuna activities in 2009. Some countries in the Mediterranean, where most bluefin is caught, may be underestimating the size of their catch by as much as two-thirds in some years, Mr. Smith said.

Meanwhile, the large illegal bluefin catch is also being widely overlooked from year to year, he added.

“We need to get illegal fishing under control, at the very least,” he said.

There is little dispute that bluefin stocks have declined sharply in recent years, with wide agreement that the population of these large ocean-crossing fish are down to no more than 15 percent of their historical levels. But there is growing concern that the bluefin is poised for an even more dramatic crash, one that could push the species over the brink into commercial extinction.

At a United Nations conference earlier this year, an attempt was made to list the bluefin tuna as a threatened species, which would prevent it from being traded internationally. Strong opposition from Japan and other bluefin fishing nations sank the measure.

Some important political players at the upcoming meeting of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas, or Iccat, in Paris have vowed to take a tough stance on problems facing the bluefin, however.

In an interview last month, Jane Lubchenco, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration administrator, said the United States would press for scientifically sound management of the bluefin at the meeting.

“It’s time for all members to step up to their responsibilities,” Dr. Lubchenco said. “At the last Iccat meeting there was good progress, but not enough.”

She added, “If the agreements are insufficiently strong, we would consider a moratorium.”

Several European Union countries, including France, have also said that they are open to a moratorium to allow tuna stocks to recover.

“The bluefin is a special case — there’s a danger of the collapse of the stock,” Maria Damanaki, the European commissioner for maritime affairs and fisheries, said in a recent interview.

“What I can say for sure is that we’re going to follow the scientific advice” at Iccat, Ms. Damanaki said. “We’re not going to back down.”