"The Mediterranean is at the point that if bluefin stocks are not actually collapsing, they are approaching collapse...when it got to bluefin, science just seemed to go out the window. The bottom line was that, as Chairman, I felt I was sort of presiding over the demise of one of the most magnificent fish that swims the ocean,"
-- William T. Hogarth, Chairman ICAAT
ICAAT's Chairman was right, he was presiding over the demise of one of the most magnificent fish that swims the ocean. This species is now on the brink of extinction. Yet ICAAT still insists there are sufficient stocks to take 13,500 tonnes this year (twice as much at least when illegal takes are included). It is clear to every CITES scientist that there are not sufficient stocks.
ICAAT, the fisheries managers in Spain, Italy, and Malta and the restaurant owners and fish traders in Japan should take a history 101 class.
In the 1950's, Norway was the largest bluefin tuna fishing nation on the planet with seemingly limitless stocks of bluefin. But things began to fail in the 1960's, when purse seining had wreaked havoc. Not only did the purse seiners destroy the Norwegian fishery directly, the bluefin migratory pattern took this incredible animal from the feeding grounds in Norwegian waters to spawn in the Mediterranean, where they were also hit. The big fish were fished out first of course, caught in unbelievable numbers, but it wasn't long before smaller and juvenile fish were also being taken. The overfishing in the Mediterranean meant the bluefin were stopped from returning to decimated Norwegian waters. By the early 1970's, the Norwegian stock had completely collapsed and has not recovered to this day; it never will.
Between 1960-1970, a fleet of Japanese longliners caught 5000-12000 tonnes of bluefin tuna annually in Brazilian waters. In that period, the bluefin was wiped out of the Brazilian waters and has never returned.
We just have to look at the collapse of the Canadian cod stocks. By the time the desperate Canadian government instituted a moratorium on cod fishing in 1992, it was too late, and the stocks have never recovered. It's the same story in every commercial fishery; we are hunting species to extinction.
Laurens de Groot, Sea Shepherd's European coordinator, tells us that, "Purse seine nets are currently responsible for 60-80% of the bluefin tuna catch in the Mediterranean. Today, the majority of the Mediterranean bluefin tuna catch is transferred live to tuna farms - cages in which the tuna are fattened primarily for the lucrative Japanese sushi and sashimi market. Due to poor law enforcement in Mediterranean Sea, the estimated annual catch is estimated to be at least double the allocated quota."
What does it take to affect change in the minds of the decision makers, how do we persuade them to put the survival of this species ahead of short-term economic benefit? Sea Shepherd's answer to this question is to defend, conserve, and protect the bluefin in May 2010, when we will shed light on the illegal and corrupt industry that intends to hunt bluefin to extinction.