November 16, 2005

WWF: Mediterranean tuna fishing “out of control”

ROME (Reuters) - Countries are ignoring limits on fishing
in the Mediterranean Sea, endangering the existence of one of
the highly prized bluefin tuna, the environmental campaign
group WWF said on Wednesday.

The green group is staging protests outside a meeting in
Seville, Spain this week of the body which governs tuna
fishing, to pressure governments to stick to quotas which aim
to keep fish stocks viable but that, it says, are being

"We have now reached crisis point for bluefin tuna in the
Mediterranean, said Sergi Tudela, of WWF's Rome-based
Mediterranean project.

WWF, formerly the World Wildlife Fund, estimated that
45,000-50,000 tons of bluefin tuna were caught in 2004, well
beyond the 32,000 ton quota allowed by the International
Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT).

It expects the over-fishing to be even greater this year
and says the practice of tuna farming -- fattening up the wild
fish in cages, often to produce much sought-after sushi-quality
tuna -- was "spiraling out of control."

"Current levels of fishing are 2.5 times higher than the
bluefin tuna populations can sustain," said Tudela. "This
ongoing mismanagement will lead to the commercial extinction of
bluefin tuna."

The WWF defines "commercial extinction" as an extreme
depletion of a fish species so it is no longer available in any
significant number.

The group is pushing ICCAT to reduce the bluefin tuna
fishing season by two weeks and implement monitoring of "purse
seining" where tuna are trapped by a large weighted nets.