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Wednesday
Nov212007

Turning a blind eye to bigeye tuna, warns WWF/TRAFFIC

Big-eye-tuna-hawaii.jpgBigeye tuna: Don't catch them young, warns TRAFFIC © WWF / Lorraine Hitch.  Cambridge, UK, 21 November 2007—Bigeye tuna are under threat because authorities are failing to recognise the dire extent of overfishing.

In the Eastern Pacific up to 60 per cent of the bigeye tuna catch are small, juvenile fish, and the proportion of these is rising, says a new report from TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network, and WWF.

“Removal of juvenile fish, before they reach adulthood and breed, compromises the sustainability of tuna stocks and reduces the availability of adults for the high-value sashimi markets in Japan,” says Glenn Sant, TRAFFIC’s Global Marine Programme Leader.

“Instead they end up being worth a few cents in a can, and tuna stocks are on the verge of collapse. The biological and economic future of the bigeye tuna fishery is at serious risk.”

The report reveals that bigeye tuna stocks in the Eastern Pacific, Indian, Atlantic and Western and Central Pacific Oceans are all suffering from excessive fishing and the Eastern Pacific stock is overfished.

Bigeye tuna is highly prized in Japanese sashimi markets, but unless fisheries are better managed, the bigeye will become yet another endangered tuna species, like Atlantic and Southern bluefin tunas.

Measures needed include the setting of precautionary catch limits, introduction of bigeye population restoration programmes, halting the harvesting of juvenile fish, and improved data collection.

“Science demands a sharp reduction in the catch of bigeye tuna, but over the past decade this advice has been ignored,” says Dr Simon Cripps, Director of WWF’s International Marine Programme. “Once again the high seas are being fished out, and unless global intervention is effective, important fish stocks will be lost forever.”

The report shows that government members of Regional Fisheries Management Organisations—the main international mechanism to regulate fishing on the high seas—have generally been slow to respond to scientific advice, have failed to address overfishing of bigeye tuna and have not met their legal obligations under the United Nations Fish Stocks Agreement.

The collapse of bigeye tuna stocks will have a profound economic impact on fishing fleets, associated processing and trading industries and on a number of island States who rely on income from fishing fleet fees.

The report is launched before the organisation in charge of bigeye tuna management in the Western and Central Pacific—The Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC)—meets to discuss management measures. WWF and TRAFFIC calls on WCPFC members to act in line with their international obligations and follow the advice of the Commission’s Scientific Committee to reduce bigeye catch. TRAFFIC and WWF would like to see a total catch reduction of around 39%.

ENDS

Further information:
Brian Thomson, Media Relations WWF, t +41 22 364 9562, m +41 79 417 3553, email bthomson@wwfint.org. Richard Thomas, Communications Co-ordinator TRAFFIC, t + 44 1223 279068, m + 44 77434 82960, email richard.thomas@traffic.org Sarah Bladen, Communications Manager WWF, t + 41 22 364 9019, m +41 79 415 0220, email sbladen@wwwfint.org Glenn Sant, Global Marine Programme Leader TRAFFIC, t + 61 2 4221 3221, email GSant@traffico.org

NOTE TO EDITORS:
* Interviews for radio, TV and print are available with Dr Simon Cripps, Director of WWF's Global Marine Programme. To book, please contact Sarah Bladen or Brian Thomson.

* Interviews for radio, TV and print are available with Glenn Sant, Global Marine Programme Leader TRAFFIC.

* Photographs are available to accompany this press release. Please contact Sarah Bladen or Brian Thomson.

* The report “With an eye to the future: Addressing failures in the global management of bigeye tuna” can be found here (PDF, 1.6 MB) and on http://www.panda.org/marine

* The Western and Central Pacific Fish Commission is holding its 4th Regular Session in Guam 3–7 December. Details can be found at the Commission’s website at www.wcpfc.int

* Governance of the world’s oceans is characterised by a patchwork of organizations tasked with the conservation and management of living marine resources. Formal co-operation between States through Regional Fisheries Management Organizations (RFMOs) dates back to at least the 1920s and there are now 16 RFMOs with a mandate to establish binding management measures for fisheries resources.

* TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network, works to ensure that trade in wild plants and animals is not a threat to the conservation of nature. TRAFFIC is a joint programme of WWF, the global conservation organization and IUCN - The World Conservation Union.

* This press release and associated material can be found on www.panda.org and on www.traffic.org.

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