October 9, 2010

Groups Upset Over Bluefin Tuna Quotas

Scientists' recommendations for endangered bluefin tuna fishing quotas came under fire Friday by environmental groups that warned they are based on out-of-date and unreliable data.

A four-day meeting on the subject, held in Madrid, Spain, was concluded Friday by the Standing Committee on Research and Statistics (SCRS) of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT).

The scientists made recommendations to be presented to ICCAT, the inter-governmental group that manages tuna stocks, at a Paris conference in November.

At last November's meeting, held in Brazil, ICCAT agreed to cut its bluefin tuna catch in the eastern Atlantic and the Mediterranean by 40 percent, from 24,200 tons in 2009 to 14,900 in 2010.

SCRS said maintaining the current allowable catch for 2011 to 2013 will allow stocks to continue to increase and allow it to recover by 2022 "with at least 60 percent probability." However, they warned of "unquantified uncertainties" in gathering reliable data.

"Most of the data limitations that have plagued previous assessments remain and will require new approaches in order to improve the scientific advice the Committee can offer," the report said.

The World Wildlife Fund slammed the recommendations and called for a quota under 6,600 tons per year. "The very data on which the scientists have based their analyses are severely inadequate and show many gaps," the agency said in a statement.

The Pew Environment Group, a non-governmental organization based in Washington DC, charged the SCRS had failed to recommend proven scientific catch limits. It called for ICCAT countries at the Paris meeting to halt all bluefin tuna fishing and protect their spawning grounds.

"Bluefin tuna fishing nations are providing scientists with out-of-date, incomplete and often unreliable information," said Remi Parmentier, a Pew Environment Group observer at the meeting.

"Because of these glaring gaps in data, scientists are essentially being asked to gaze into a crystal ball and pick a number for bluefin tuna catch limits," Parmentier told AFP.

"It allows fishing countries to assign bluefin tuna catch limits based on unfounded optimism instead of objective science. No species should have to rely on a crystal ball for its survival," he added.

Bluefin stocks have plummeted in the Mediterranean and eastern Atlantic due to large-scale industrial harvesting.

A conference of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species in Doha in March discarded a moratorium on trade in Atlantic bluefin tuna, after aggressive lobbying by the Japanese.


Image Caption: A northern bluefin tuna at the Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan, Japan. Credit: Wikipedia


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