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Illegal fishing threatens tuna stocks in Mediterranean

Illegal fishing for Atlantic bluefin tuna in the Mediterranean Sea continues to threaten the recovery of the species, a new study reports.

At least 79 media accounts of bluefin tuna catches above the EU quota have been collected in the past 12 months – 73 in Italy, five in Spain and one in Tunisia – showing a tally of 186 tonnes.

The figures have been gathered by The Pew Charitable Trusts, a non-profit global research body based in Washington DC, and, a group working for the preservation of the Mediterranean ecosystems, headquartered in Italy.

The Italian incidents include the impounding of more than 1.7 tonnes of bluefin tuna from a factory in Rossano, Calabria, because the company’s owner had no catch documents.

In Pescara, Abruzzo, port officials intercepted two vans carrying a tonne of the fish intended for sale in Rome, and in Salerno, near Naples, traffic police stopped a truck carrying 2.5 tonnes without catch documentation.

Another case featured 38 tonnes, worth €300,000 ($406,000, £240,000), suspected of being illegally traded in Italy and France during the year.

The future of the bluefin tuna is “highly uncertain”, says the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas. Those fears for the survival of the fish are shared by Amanda Nickson, of The Pew Charitable Trusts.

Nickson, who is director of global tuna conservation for the organisation, said: “Without doubt illegal fishing remains a significant threat to Atlantic bluefin tuna in the Mediterranean, and this population has a long way to go before it fully recovers from decades of unsustainable management.

“As the fishing season ends, we’re reminded that every fish caught illegally undermines the recovery of this population and the actions of legal fishers operating by the rules within the set quota.”

She welcomed the efforts to halt illegal fishing but, referring to the recorded instances, she warned: “These are just the cases we know about. By its very definition, illegal and unreported trade flies under the radar, which makes advances in reporting and technology even more integral to developing a transparent and sustainable trade.”

The study was published through, a seafood industry information provider in Maine, New England.

Picture credit: © Marshall Turner |

Global | Conservation


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