Image courtesy of FreeCat
In a belated attempt to (finally) stem the growing tide of aggressive overfishing, the U.S. is calling on the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) to enact a 3-5 year ban on bluefin tuna fishing in the eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean Sea amidst fears of an imminent collapse in global stocks.
The proposal, first announced by Bill Hogarth, the U.S. delegate and ICCAT chairman, is being backed by both the Senate and international conservation organizations such as the WWF - which recently reiterated its call for an immediate 3-year band "following a season of unprecedented illegal and uncontrolled fishing which has resulted in massive over-quota catches".Despite recommendations from ICCAT scientists to limit individual countries' catches of bluefin stock to 15,000 tons a year, annual figures continue to balloon; the plan that was eventually adopted by the international monitoring agency set the quota at 29,000 tons for 2007, almost twice that suggested by its researchers.
Sergi Tudela, the WWF Mediterranean's head of Fisheries Program, signaled pessimism that the new moratorium would ultimately be approved by the 45-member agency. "So far it looks difficult to get the minimum support required for this [temporary moratorium], but we don't know yet. We will know very soon which countries are supporting this."
Other countries - including Japan and Turkey - have issued their own proposals, alternately calling for the establishment of a working coalition of farmers and traders to hash out a management plan and for further reducing quotas and prolonging the closed fishing period.
The amount of illegal and unreported catches last year was estimated to lie around 20,500 tons; Tudela framed the tremendous challenges facing the bluefin tuna in stark terms: "The choice is simple: moratorium today for a sustainable fishery tomorrow, or do nothing and fish this princely species to an untimely death."