Wednesday, 20 February 2013

A positive control on fish and politics?

Bluefin tuna
Last year, there was a great difference between the tuna catch declared and the amount of Mediterranean tuna actually entering Tokyo’s market (the disparity stood at a shocking 140%). The controversy engulfing the Mediterranean bluefin tuna catchment process stems from the fact that the fish are regularly caught, caged, fattened and sold to Tokyo despite being widely considered an endangered species. 
The preceding measures to control catchment numbers and ensure the sustainability of bluefin tuna proved inadequate; the paper-based recording system was susceptible to exploitation, as retrieving accurate quantitative data was taxing. Skippers thrived as they continued to catch Tuna illegally and unregulated. A meeting in Turkey has addressed this issue with the implementation of an electronic system. 

The International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) also delegated a minimum legal size catchment of swordfish; a formalised recovery plan is due later in 2013. Furthermore, the ICCAT governments acknowledged the dangers that tuna and sharks face in the Atlantic Ocean, off the West coast of Africa. It was highlighted that the use of fish aggregating devices (FADs) often attract tuna, juveniles and unwanted species, thus restrictions on their use were voted in.  

The Head of Fisheries for WWF in the Mediterranean region has praised these movements as “important and positive leaps forward”. Noticeable however was the lack of mention regarding the illicit fishing of bluefin tuna during Libya’s political uprising in 2012. In addition, the classified ‘vulnerable to extinct’ species of the Porbeagle shark – as recognised on the Red List - had any associated proposals rejected. 

Porbeagle shark
Whilst bodies recognising endangered species is crucial to try to maintain healthy population numbers, this should be applicable to all species – an argument many conservation parties have put forward. Arguably these movements, and lack of them, suggest motions are wrongly influenced by political stability and the global market – rather than species’ sustainability.

By Ellen Kane, Action 21 volunteer