Although considered largely unsuccessful at preventing the nearly inevitable extinction of the Atlantic Bluefin Tuna at last week’s International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) gathering in Istanbul, Susan Lieberman of the PEW environment group told Jennifer Hattam with Treehugger, one of the contributors to our recently launched blogging guide Barefoot Bloggers, that certain progress was made.
In particular, the group was able to persuade ICCAT to adopt a new electronic monitoring device that will make it a lot harder for fishermen to fudge catch numbers. If unsuccessful, if Bluefin Tuna fishing in the Mediterranean is not better managed, another member of the PEW delegation Lee Crocket told the Washington Post that the population will have less than a 24% chance of reviving in the next decade.
Illegal fishing in the Mediterranean
One of the greatest challenges to monitoring Bluefin Tuna catch in the Mediterranean is lack of enforcement. This is especially true in the context of the political problems sweeping through the region. Earlier this year – before former Libyan President Muammar Gaddafi was hunted down and killed -fishing vessels were found to be fishing illegally in the northern Mediterranean. But nobody could prove who they belonged to, though it is suspected that Italy and Malta were involved.
The new electronic monitoring device will mitigate some of these problems.
Lee Crocket told WP:
ICCAT must adopt an electronic-catch documentation system, because the current paper-based system is full of holes and allows unreported and illegally caught fish to enter the market,” said Lee Crockett, bluefin tuna expert of the Pew Environment Group. He said an electronic system would close loopholes by adding real-time monitoring, facilitating enforcement, and providing a more accurate count of the amount of bluefin tuna caught each year.
Last year, both publications reported that 140 percent more meat was sold than what is either legal or reported. This is largely possible because the fish are measured in terms of weight rather than numbers before they are sent to fattening farms in Turkey and other Mediterranean countries, where they are fed fatty food that bulks them up prior to trade with Japan.
The problem of bycatch
The new electronic monitoring devices will not be able to save sharks and other marine by-catch such as turtles that are caught on wire fishing line leaders.
Bluefin Tuna are predators that play a critical role in marine ecosystems, but they also generate a lot of income, so finding sustainable solutions that work for fishermen, the Japanese, and the species itself, has thus far eluded stakeholders. The new electronic monitoring device still requires self-reporting, so it’s definitely not foolproof, but it could be a good step in the right direction.
image via Greenpeace