April 14, 2009

Bluefin Tuna Could Face Elimination In 3 Years

Atlantic bluefin tuna are in danger of being completely wiped out within the next three years due to overfishing, according to a report from conservation group WWF on Tuesday.

At the current rate in which fishing practices are moving, the bluefin breeding population will disappear by 2012, said WWF.

The report shows a significant decline in the population of breeding tunas over the past decade. It concludes that the entire population will be wiped out completely if fisheries managers continue current practices and "ignore the warnings from scientists that fishing must stop."

"Mediterranean bluefin tuna is on the slippery slope to collapse, and here is the data to prove it," said Dr Sergi Tudela, Head of Fisheries at WWF Mediterranean.

"Whichever way you look at it, the Mediterranean bluefin tuna collapse trend is dramatic, it is alarming, and it is happening now."

"WWF has no choice but to again urge the immediate closure of this fishery."

Fish capable of reproduction are aged 4 years or older and weigh more than 35kg, but the WWF found that they are quickly being eliminated. In 2007 the proportion of breeding tuna was only one quarter of the levels 50 years ago. Additionally, the size of mature tunas has been reduced by more than half since the 1990s.

"The average size of tuna caught off the coast of Libya, for example, has dropped from 124kg in 2001 to only 65kg last year. Data gathered by WWF show that this pattern has been observed across the entire Mediterranean," the group said in a statement.

"Mediterranean (Atlantic) bluefin tuna is collapsing as we speak and yet the fishery will kick off again tomorrow for business as usual. It is absurd and inexcusable to open a fishing season when stocks of the target species are collapsing," added Tudela.

Conservation groups claim an agreement signed in November by states actually set bluefin fishing quotas 47 percent higher than recommended.

WWF has called for "the immediate closure of the Mediterranean bluefin tuna fishery to give the species a chance to recover, while continuing to encourage consumers, retailers, restaurants and chefs to join the global movement to avoid the consumption of the imperiled fish."


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