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WWF and Greenpeace denounce decision on irresponsible management of tuna fisheries

Bilbao, Spain.
5, Nov 2002

At the end of the 13th Special Meeting of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT), WWF and Greenpeace, observers at the ICCAT-meeting, denounce the irresponsible step back in the sustainable management of tuna and tuna-like species fisheries, in particular for bluefin tuna (BFT), one of the most commercially valuable fish in the world.

During the past week, ICCAT Contracting Parties negotiated measures to conserve and manage tunas and tuna-like species in the Atlantic and Mediterranean waters. Despite the strong scientific evidence that the Eastern Atlantic BFT-stock -which includes the Mediterranean population- is highly overexploited, ICCAT has adopted management measures that further threaten this decimated population. ICCAT adopted the EU proposal to set the fishing quota level 28% higher than the maximum catch scientifically recommended.

"This excessive quota is totally unacceptable for the conservation of this precious species and points to a fundamental lack of commitment of ICCAT Parties, especially the EU," said Tom Grasso, head of the WWF delegation at the ICCAT meeting.

The adoption of an annual quota of 32,000 MT for the next 4 years has been tailored to match the industrial fishing sector's short-term quota. WWF and Greenpeace believe that this decision will most likely lead to the collapse of this important fishery. Both organizations also denounce ICCAT's total ban on the capture of the juvenile-of-the-year bluefin tuna, which exemplifies the lack of credibility of this international organization that was created to conserve, not to help destroy, tuna stocks.

WWF and Greenpeace strongly criticize the ICCAT for failing to adopt adequate measures to regulate the tuna farming industry in the Mediterranean, that has become a major threat for the conservation of bluefin tuna. Though some progress has been made on the statistical reporting of farmed tuna, some crucial aspects are not compulsory, relying on the voluntary collaboration of the tuna farming industry. Also, no quantitative limits have been set for this exponentially increasing practice and environmental impacts have not been considered. Both organizations urge the EU to stop blocking all initiatives to effectively control this development.

The catch limit for bluefin tuna in the Western Atlantic was increased from 2500 MT to 2700 MT, despite the overwhelming evidence that the stock continues to be below 15% of its population size in 1970. WWF and Greenpeace severely criticize the ICCAT Parties for not acting according to the objectives of the ICCAT convention to conserve this stock.

ICCAT is also responsible for the management of the Mediterranean swordfish, another overfished species. WWF and Greenpeace are disappointed that not a single measure has been adopted in this regard, since ICCAT has avoided even dealing with the management of this important fishery. This year, ICCAT parties agreed to increase the annual north atlantic swordfish quota from 10400 MT to 14000 MT with no firm commitments to seriously address the bycatch of juvenile swordfish and white marlin, species considered endangered by the US government.

"ICCAT has absolutely ignored the 1995 UN fish stock agreement for the conservation of highly migratory species, currently in force, which includes an operational definition of the precautionary approach," added Héléne Bours, head of Greenpeace delegation at the ICCAT meeting.

For more information:
Anne Rémy, WWF Mediterranean Programme Office Head of Communications,
Tel. : + 39 06 844 97 424,

Sebastian Losada, Greenpeace,
Tel. : +34 91 444 14 00/626,