The news recently appeared in the media present the situation of bluefin tuna as appalling: we consume about 140% more tuna than what we are supposed to catch, vessels fish where they are forbidden to and by-catches are worrying.
Even if allegations have to be investigated and data verified, we must admit that much remains to be done to achieve sustainability and management and control measures for the protection of tuna and tuna-like species are not as effective as they should be.
As the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) holds its annual meeting in Istanbul, the European Union is tabling ambitious proposals for the conservation of Mediterranean swordfish, and tropical tunas and sharks, in line with science recommendations, and promoting mitigation measures against incidental catches of seabirds.
To take sound decisions, we need sound data: following-up my recent letter to ICCAT’s Chairman, we propose an initiative to consolidate and further improve scientific advice and to provide incentives for ICCAT members to submit the catch data required to assess the stocks, including sharks.
Moreover, scientists of the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre just developed a new model allowing tracking the potential presence of bluefin tuna through daily updated maps, thus helping to protect endangered stocks and fight illegal fishing.
But even if quotas respect protection requirements, things are not going to improve if rules are not respected: traceability of bluefin tuna throughout the market chain is to be improved, to enhance the ability to detect fraud and deter illegal shipments. This is why the EU will continue to lead the development of an electronic Catch Documentation System for Bluefin Tuna, which would replace the existing paper-based system.
So, we are trying hard to use all means at our disposal to drive the change towards sustainability. And we expect the same from our partners in ICCAT, to ensure a level playing field between parties and to strengthen measures’ efficiency. And from the industry as well: I am confident that we all understand that the image of a whole sector is at stake here and that if we all do not take responsibility for our actions, consumers will draw the conclusions, and it won’t be easy to gain their trust again.