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Watch news clip on CITES and bluefin tuna

We have a great news clip from Al Jazeera discussing the outcome of CITES with a big focus on bluefin tuna. Our very own Charles Clover joins the debate discussing the disappointing outcome from this year’s meeting and suggests what the future may hold for this amazing fish.

Have a little look here


Lastest report from Charles Clover in Doha “It was an Ambush”

It was an ambush. Fishing nations, led by Libya, ruthlessly voted down proposals to ban international trade in Atlantic bluefin tuna at the meeting of 115 parties to the Convention on International Trade on Endangered Species this afternoon.

Delegates from Monaco, the EU and the United States had hoped to keep the proposals being discussed into next week in the hope that compromises could be found. In the event, the debate was short and not at all sweet. Monaco’s proposal for an unqualified trade ban was rejected by 68 votes to 20, with 30 abstentions. Before that, the EU’s highly qualified version of the same proposal was crushed by 72 votes to 43.

The debate began with Monaco’s ambassador, Patrick Van Klaveren, speaking out in favour the proposal to place the Atlantic bluefin on Cites Appendix 1, on the grounds that the tuna had declined to less than 15 per cent of its original stock and UN scientists from two official bodies accepted that the criteria for it to be listed on Appendix 1 had been met.

This was followed by a lacklustre presentation, by the Spanish presidency, in favour of the conditions the EU wanted to place on the proposal. Then, instead of the torrent of support conservationists had hoped for there was a cascade of fishing nations, starting with Canada, speaking out against the proposed ban and in favour of leaving the management of the bluefin with the Atlantic tuna commission, ICCAT, which until recently has failed to set scientifically based quotas or to crack down on illegal fishing.

Speeches in favour of ICCAT continuing to manage the species, which can fetch up to $100,000 for a single specimen on the Japanese market, rolled on – Indonesia, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, Venezuela, Chile, Japan, Grenada, Korea, Senegal, Morocco.

Tunisia talked of social problems that would be caused if there was a ban, Morocco spoke of 2000 families in an area of no other employment who would have no income. Morocco said the bluefin was a flagship species it was in the interests of all to preserve, but said it was premature to regulate it under Cites.

Only Kenya, Norway and the United States spoke up in favour of a ban, despite advice from both the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation and ICCAT’s own scientific committee that the bluefin deserved a respite from international trade.

By the time the eccentric Libyan delegate got the floor, it was clear where the majority lay. All it took was for Libya to propose a vote on Monaco’s proposal, and the chairman of the meeting, John Donaldson, had to put the proposal to close the debate to the meeting.

It was quite clear from there what would happen. Once the vote to hold a vote had been passed, the votes on the EU’s and Monaco’s vote were both lost.

Patrick Van Klaveren, for Monaco, said magnanimously: “It is not a defeat it is the manifestation of confidence put in ICCAT to solve the problem.” He threatened to come back in 2013 with another proposal to list the bluefin under Appendix 1 if ICCAT failed to take up the challenge to manage the bluefin for recovery.

At the press conference he shook hands with the leader of the Japanese delegation, Mitsunori Miyahara, who had taken part in the defeat of an attempt to place the bluefin on Cites in 1992.

Mr Miyahara, chief counsellor to the Japanese Fisheries Agency, said: “We agree that the bluefin is not in good shape. We have to take any measure for recovery. We have to work harder from now on.”

He said that at last November’s meeting of ICCAT, “finally the system started to work.”
“We are going to wipe out illegal fish from our markets.”

Sue Lieberman of the Pew Environment Trust branded the decision “irresponsible.”
“This meeting has said let’s take science and throw it out the door. There was clearly pressure from fishing industry. This fish is too valuable for its own good.
“Statements made about ICCAT blatantly were false. It’s time to hold ICCAT’s feet to the fire. We will be there every step of the way.”

Charles Clover


The End of the Line Launched in Spanish

The Spanish version of The End of the Line, the first major feature documentary film revealing the impact of overfishing on our oceans, was launched by MarViva Foundation, Oceana Europe and renowned singer Miguel Bose in Madrid on 3rd February.

MarViva Founder and President, Erica Knie, speaks during the press conference presenting The End of the Line in Madrid, Spain. (From left to right), Knie, Oceana Europe Director Xavier Pastor, and artist Miguel Bose

MarViva Founder and President, Erica Knie, speaks during the press conference presenting The End of the Line in Madrid, Spain. (From left to right), Knie, Oceana Europe Director Xavier Pastor, and artist Miguel Bose

The film examines the imminent extinction of bluefin tuna, brought on by increasing western demand for sushi; the impact on marine life resulting in huge overpopulation of jellyfish; and the profound implications of a future world with no fish.

Bose is the narrator in the Spanish version of the documentary, directed by Rupert Murray and based on investigative journalist Charles Clover’s book of the same name.

During the presentation, MarViva and Oceana released a statement signed by a group of environmental organisations and international figures urging Spain to support the ban on the international trade of bluefin tuna (Thunnus thynnus) at the next Conference of the Parties of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) that will be held in Doha (Qatar) in March.

Representatives of Greenpeace, Ecologistas en Acción, Pew Foundation and the government of the Balearic Islands, and Roberto Mielgo (the former tuna farmer turned whistleblower who is a protagonist of the film) were present to support the statement.

They highlighted the critical situation that the species is undergoing in the North Atlantic and the need for immediate action to ensure its future. Decades of overfishing, illegal fishing and management dominated by industry interests, have decimated the bluefin tuna spawning stock to levels below 15 per cent of the existing population before industrial fishing.

Negotiations are currently taking place in the heart of the EU for a common stance for the CITES meeting, which will be a determining factor for this species’ future. The European Parliament’s Environment Committee, in a resolution within the process framework, has already urged Member States to support Monaco’s proposal for a ban on international trade.

The signatories consider that Spain has the responsibility of acting to preserve bluefin tuna, and they urge the Spanish government to immediately adopt and promote the following measures:

Support for the inclusion of bluefin tuna in Appendix I of CITES

Bluefin tuna is disappearing. The decades of management by the Contracting Parties to the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT), which include the EU, have been called an “international disgrace” [Report of the Independent Performance Review of ICCAT,  2008].

The parties have shown themselves to be incapable of adopting the necessary measures such as quotas in accordance with scientists’ advice or the closure of the fishery during the spawning period. CITES is currently the sole valid alternative to guarantee the future of this species.

On the other hand, the socio-economic considerations do not make sense in this context. The EU Member States must guarantee the fishing industry’s long-term viability. The administration’s current position only constitutes a guarantee that bluefin tuna fishing will cease to exist in the near future.

Spain, which currently holds the EU presidency and has the highest quota percentage among Member States, therefore has the responsibility of supporting this measure.

Creation of marine reserves in bluefin tuna spawning areas

The protection of bluefin tuna spawning areas in the Mediterranean through the creation of marine reserves is a necessary step to protect this species, starting with the area located to the south of the Balearic Islands where there is already sufficient scientific information that upholds the immediate need for protection.

The signatories include:


1. Palma Aquarium
2. PEW Foundation
3. Slow Food Spain
4. Slow Food Illes Balears
5. Greenpeace España
6. Avina
7. Ecologistas en Acción
8. WWF
9. Grup Balear de Ornitología (GOB) Mallorca
10. Grup Balear de Ornitología (GOB) Menorca
11. Grup Balear de Ornitología (GOB) Eivissa
12. Instituto Internacional de Derecho y Medio Ambiente (IIDMA)
13. Amics de la Terra Balears
14. Amigos de la Tierra Spain
15. Centro de Estudios Rurales y de Agricultura Internacional (CERAI)

International Public figures:

1. Kofi Annan, former secretary general, United Nations
2. Javier Solana, former High Representative of the European Union for the Common
Foreign and Security Policy
3. Michael Douglas, actor
4. José María Figueres, former President of Costa Rica
5. Sybilla, designer
6. Ted Danson, actor
7. Elle MacPherson, model
8. Basilio Baltasar, Director, Fundación Santillana
9. Dr. Enric Sala, investigative scientist of Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (CSIC) y Ocean Fellow, National Geographic Society
10. Diego Hidalgo, President, Fundación para las Relaciones Internacionales y el Diálogo Exterior (FRIDE)
11. Jordi Bigas, journalist
12. Diego Azqueta, Honorary President, WATU Acción Indígena
13. Sean Cleary, CEO, Strategic Concepts
14. Colin and Livia Firth, actors
15. Jordi Bigas, environmental journalist
16. Víctor Viñuales, Director, Ecología y Desarrollo
17. Pedro Barbadillo, director
18. Rupert Murray, director, The End of the Line
19. George Duffield, producer, The End of the Line
20. Charles Clover, investigative journalist, author of The End of the Line
21. Valeria Golino, actress
22. Baron Eric De Rothschild, banker
23. Greta Scacchi, actress
24. Stephen Fry, actor
25. Dr. Carles Amengual i Vicens, Education Secretary, Liga Médico Homeopática Internacional
26. Yannick y Ben Jakober, artists
27. Irene Peukes, designer
28. Sandy Hemingway, President, Amigos de la Tierra Spain
29. Liliane Spendeler, Director, Áreas Ambientales, Amigos de la Tierra Spain
30. Yolanda Kakabadse, former President, IUCN, and Senior Advisor, Fundación Futuro Latinoamericano
31. Prof. Jacques Marcovitch, former President, Universidad de Sao Paulo
32. Jaume Tapies, chef and President, Relais & Chateaux
33. Musaed Al Saleh, Council member, Earth Council Geneva (ECG)
34. Jacques Perrin, director and producer
35. Tom Aikens, chef
36. Sophie Andrieu, author
37. Joanna Lumley, actress
38. Charles Dance, actor
39. Fiona Shaw, actress
40. Zac Goldsmith, environmental journalist
41. Damian Aspinall, entrepreneur
42. Ben Elliot, entrepreneur
43. Ben and Kate Goldsmith, entrepreneur and envionromentalists
44. Laura Bailey, actress
45. Alan Rickman, actor and director
46. Prince Urbano Barberini, actor
47. Richard E Grant, actor
48. Sophie Dahl, writer and model
49. Emilia Fox, actress
50. Amber Valletta, actress and model


Por fin – France support trade ban on bluefin tuna

At last, France has officially announced support for an international trade ban on Atlantic bluefin. This is great news.

It means that 23 out of the 27 EU countries now support the species being protected by CITES (the organisation which regulates trade in endangered species). It also means there is no longer any effective block to stop the EU reaching a common position (at a previous vote, it had been blocked by the Mediterranean countries).

Two of the main fishing nations, Italy and France are supporting the trade ban, and Italy has already declared it is suspending its own fishery. That is pretty momentous. It’s as if the proverbial turkeys have just voted for Christmas by a landslide.

Wind back just a year, and this might all seem unthinkable. Yet President Sarkozy stood up on a podium last July and announced France was going to protect bluefin. The position in France has not exactly been as clear as consommé in the intervening months, and the political position seems to have flip-flopped more than a floundering fish on a foredeck. Continue reading ‘Por fin – France support trade ban on bluefin tuna’


Subsidising extinction

Bluefin tuna - sometimes you just can’t believe how absurd the story gets.

Raul Romeva i Rueda and Charles Clover at ICCAT

Raul Romeva i Rueda and Charles Clover at ICCAT

News from WWF and a Green MEP show that over an eight-year period the EU bluefin tuna fishing industry received subsidies totalling €34.5m.

Yes folks, your tax helped fund the overfishing of a species now teetering on the very brink of extinction. A species that 21 out of 27 EU countries now think should be subject to an international trade ban.

Raül Romeva i Rueda, a Spanish Green MEP, received answers to parliamentary questions revealing the extent of subsidies which took place between 2000 and 2008.

Of the €34.5m total, some €33.5m was for the construction and modernisation of fishing vessels, and only a tiny proportion (€1m) for decommissioning boats.

These revelations come as the EU Commission and member states have to start readdressing their own thoughts on Atlantic bluefin. Last month’s ICCAT meeting in Brazil failed to close the fishery, and saw EU negotiators (led by France and Spain) pushing for the highest possible quotas.

This in itself was hypocrisy after three-quarters of EU member states had voted to support an international ban on the species - showing just how disproportionately powerful the lobby of the Mediterranean fishing nations is.

These new revelations make the whole EU bluefin story even more difficult to swallow, since the already lucrative trade in bluefin (which has escalated despite scientific warnings) has been made even more profitable with taxpayers’ money. And it’s not even as if the subsidies were targeted at supporting traditional or lower-impact methods of fishing - they also applied to the massive purse-seiners.

The beneficiaries of the money were Cyprus, France, Greece, Italy, Malta and Spain. In an amazing coincidence the six EU member states which blocked support for an international trade ban were Cyprus, France, Greece, Italy, Malta and Spain.

It really makes you wonder what the 21 other EU countries are getting out of this arrangement… and what exactly they will do next? The EU must come up with an agreed common position before the CITES meeting in March 2010.

Many countries like the UK have already publicly supported a full trade ban. This new illustration of just
how the countries blocking effective measures to protect this species are being subsidised to trash the species can surely only strengthen the case for such a ban.


Political flip-flops on bluefin?

As ICCAT souvenirs, delegates will be packing their bags in Recife with a delightful polo shirt emblazoned with ‘ICCAT’ and a bluefin tuna, and a pair of flip-flops in Brazilian colours.

Somehow this is quite fitting.

The meeting has just come to a close, and the rushed final sessions have agreed as much as they could. In that haste, several things were put off to be considered again next year.

Like the protection of endangered mako and porbeagle sharks, and measures to reduce the bycatch of seabirds and turtles. These sorts of delays are common in ICCAT when agreements can’t be reached. But hey, why do today, what you can put off until next year, right?

But the true legacy of this meeting will be the discussions on bluefin tuna. Much of that discussion clearly happened behind closed doors, with the open sessions us mere observers get to see being something of a rehearsed pantomime for some members.

On the final day a proposal came forward for a quota of bluefin tuna (for the Mediterranean and East Atlantic) for 13-and-a-half thousand tonnes for 2010. That could only have been more unlucky if they’d come forward with it two days earlier, on Friday 13th. It marked a huge drop in quota, and for the first time the bluefin quota was set *within* scientific recommendations.

It’s just a shame they ignored the recent updated scientific recommendations and used last year’s instead. For just three weeks ago, ICCAT’s own scientists showed that not only did Atlantic bluefin meet the criteria to be listed under CITES for a trade ban, but also showed that only a quota as low as 8,000 tonnes would show any chance for the stocks to recover at all. Unsurprisingly the best option for rebuilding the stock was zero quota. All of this meant that the only credible thing ICCAT could do was close the fishery.

They have failed to do that. So perhaps the polo shirts are meant as a commemorative epitaph for a species ICCAT has given up on. In the words of one delegate who was pushing for the fishery to be closed ‘I would like to bid farewell to our good friend, bluefin’.

And the flip flops? Well ‘flip-flop’ was famously used to describe a Presidential candidate in the US for changing his mind, repeatedly. So the question has to be – where now for all of those countries who have stood up and called for effective action on bluefin, or even publicly backed a trade ban? 21 out of 27 EU member states, including the UK and France have done that (although it seems Sarkozy may have already flipped). And does the United States really think that ICCAT has done enough to protect Atlantic bluefin?

If you ask a country’s representative here you will get a stock answer along the lines of ‘oh someone else deals with that’, because fisheries and environment departments are usually conveniently partitioned. So who is going to flip-flop now on bluefin tuna? Can the ICCAT participants put their hand on their hearts (which, conveniently is just where the bluefin is on the polo shirts) and say they’ve done enough here this week?

I don’t think so. The panicked agreements are all about this organisation doing whatever it could to avoid CITES listing, a point that was referred to again and again by interventions around the table. CITES will meet in March 2010, and they may well free up ICCAT’s agenda next year if they do agree an international trade ban, as they desperately need to.

As we now bid farewell to Brazil, we are tempted to do more than just wave our flip-flops on the way out of the meeting.


Analysis: a failure of governance dooms the bluefin tuna

Let’s be absolutely clear. The people whose task it is to manage the bluefin tuna stocks of the Atlantic have failed once again, even under the eyes of the world, to take the advice of their own scientists. They should now be brushed aside.

The Atlantic tuna commission, meeting in Porto de Galinhas, Brazil, has agreed a proposal to drop the catch limit for bluefin tuna in the Eastern Atlantic and the Mediterranean next year from 19,500 tons to 13,500 tons.

I was at the meeting and interviewed the chief scientist of the commission, Dr Gerald P Scott and he told me that in the present uncertain state of bluefin stocks – which in layman’s terms are in a state of collapse - 15,000 tons doesn’t meet the commission’s recovery plan which looks for a 50 per cent chance of recovery by 2023.

The paper Dr Scott showed to the meeting showed that only a 8500 ton quota might have a chance of meeting the commission’s remarkably weak objective for recovery. Only a total closure of the fishery yielded a significant chance of the bluefin recovering from a serious threat of commercial extinction.

So the proposal for a 13,500 ton quota by the chairman of the meeting, supported by the EU, Japan, Morocco and Tunisia, is a political quota, not a scientific one. It is far too high. No wonder the United States did not support it. No wonder the environmentalists are portraying it as a failure. The only silver lining is that this decision could, just conceivably, lead to the management of the bluefin being taken away from the tuna commission.

Susan Lieberman of the Pew Environment Group, a US-based not-for-profit organisation, responded to the news by saying: “When you adjust the new catch limit to account for over-fishing and rampant illegal fishing by some countries and add in ICCAT’s poor enforcement and compliance record, the prospects for the recovery of the once-abundant Atlantic bluefin are dismal.”

No one is that surprised, though. For it has turned out that the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) was mis-named, for it has never once taken scientific advice literally in its 40-year history as you will see from my article in the Sunday Times.

The result of the meeting is now likely to increase demands for international trade in bluefin to be banned by being listed on Appendix 1 of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), the same provision that was used to save the African elephant in the 1980s after an epidemic of ivory poaching.

The EU was unable to agree to support such a listing in September, with the six Mediterranean nations forming a blocking minority and 21 nations in favour. That decision is likely to have to be formally revisited now before the CITES meeting in Doha next March.

The ICCAT meeting formally identified nearly all the countries catching bluefin for breaking the rules – a new thing – one of the most common infringements was tuna fattening farms accepting fish without proper documentation to show that they had been legally caught.

Despite a week spent at the five-star resort, delegates were unable to agree on measures to protect vulnerable shark species. They did agree to ban the retention and landing of bigeye threshers, one of the slowest growing and most vulnerable sharks, but allowed Mexico an exemption to catch 110 of them. They put off until next year any consideration of measures to prevent 12,500 vulnerable seabirds being caught by tuna long-line fleets.

In a further instance of what environmentalists were portraying as overall failure, officials among the Atlantic nations endorsed the use of “wall of death” drift nets by Morocco for another two years.

Moroccan fishermen are estimated to kill 4,000 dolphins and 25,000 sharks in their drift nets each year. Drift nets have been banned internationally by the UN since 1992.

Dr Sergi Tudela of the environmental group, WWF, said: “This year all contracting parties talked of the need to restore ICCAT’s credibility, and to do so they endorse the slaughter of 50,000 more sharks and 8,000 more dolphins, violating UN resolutions?

“It is beyond belief and is one more proof of the total dysfunction of ICCAT as a serious fisheries management organisation.”

No comment was available from the ICCAT contracting parties or the European Commission last night on the decisions made at the meeting.


Could bluefin tuna fisheries be closed?

So, here in Brazil, the game is on. At the end of yesterday’s session the parties around the table at the ICCAT meeting were asked what their priorities were for conserving bluefin tuna.

One by one they made positive murmurings about wanting to ‘follow the scientific recommendations’, and enforce compliance with them. They all pretty much said they want to see illegal fishing tackled.

No rocket science there, and you would be forgiven for wondering why they have not done those things already!

More importantly there were also some hints as to how low some countries would go in terms of a quota, with several actually suggesting the possibility of closing the fishery. To you and me that may be a no-brainer. To many of them, it is a seismic shift.

Now, we shouldn’t get ahead of ourselves here. There is a lot of horse-trading to be done behind closed stable doors. And it’s worth noting that the talk about closing the fishery is just for one year – which could well be a very convenient way of avoiding bluefin being subject to an international trade ban under CITES.

Greenpeace, and other conservation organisations here, won’t settle for that – and we are reminding the participants at ICCAT that the only credible thing they can do is close this fishery.

And it seems they desperately want to regain some credibility here. You can understand that, after all ICCAT was branded an ‘international disgrace’ by an independent review.

The spotlight is on them because of what they have allowed to happen to bluefin, and the bureaucrats who attend these meetings really don’t like that. Delegate after delegate has talked about the need for ICCAT to claw back credibility, conveniently ignoring that this is a situation their own bad judgement in the past has got them into.

From an observer’s point of view here there is much to be cynical about. This is a dysfunctional meeting in a tropical paradise, at a resort whose very construction has caused disruption and problems for the local coastline in Brazil, with gala dinners, cocktail receptions, and a self-congratulating bunch of faceless bureaucrats mismanaging species, fisheries, and livelihoods.

Yesterday was an eye opener, with some impassioned and stirring interventions (particularly from some of the African delegations) requesting stronger action to protect stocks of fish in their waters.

At several points I wanted to stand up, cheer and applaud. But those heartfelt pleas were met by some cynical process point-scoring by delegations on the other side of the table, immediately filling me with despair.

There is still a long way to go here.

  • Willie MacKenzie is part of Greenpeace’s Ocean Campaign. This blog post originally appeared on the Greenpeace UK website.


The End of the Line is shown at ICCAT

The End of the Line was shown in remarkable circumstances this week – in the official convention hall of a hotel near Recife, Brazil, where the world’s oldest whole-ocean fisheries management organisation was meeting to set controversial catch limits for the Atlantic’s dwindling populations of tuna, swordfish and sharks.

The End of the Line is shown at the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas meeting in Brazil

The End of the Line is shown at the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas meeting in Brazil

It took a certain amount of persuasion. It needed the crucial backing of the Brazilian chairman of the meeting, Prof Fabio Hazin (the curiosity of these meetings is that the chairmen are usually enlightened while the contracting parties from the fishing nations, which include Libya, are anything but).

It also needed a mysterious process of agreement from heads of delegations sitting in closed session.

The chief scientist, Dr Gerald P Scott, an American, was consulted, and pronounced in a neutral kind of way that the idea of showing a film, after and outside the official business of the day, was something that had been done before - though quite when nobody could remember - and might provide an opportunity some delegates might not otherwise get to see it. The film was duly shown in the convention centre, on official equipment.

Was this a sign that the dysfunctional International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas – often known to its critics as the International Conspiracy for Catching All The Tuna – was at last beginning to listen to voices outside the fishing industry, such as the citizens who actually pay them to manage the sea? No one could say for sure.

About 40 people postponed their need for a beer or managed to slip out of meetings to see the film. Some of these, inevitably, were the already converted: conservationists who were seeing the film as an act of solidarity with its message.

Two Asian delegations stood around talking before filing out. But here and there, as you looked around, were some senior delegation folk sitting in small groups including, significantly, most of the Spanish delegation. At the end, there was applause.

We were approached the next night by the secretariat requesting a second screening for delegations, principally Mexico, that had missed the screening we had organised because of meetings. So we were back by popular demand.

Could the message be getting out that our seas are a mess and ICCAT has failed for 40 years to tackle the problem of the depleting Atlantic ocean?

Whether or not this was a sign of changing times, for once this week the message got through.



Joanna Lumley and Elle MacPherson among celebrities to add names to bluefin tuna petition

With the future of the bluefin tuna in the Mediterranean and the Atlantic likely to be decided in Brussels this week, supporters of The End of the Line’s campaign to reform the management of Europe’s fisheries have written to José Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission asking him to save the tuna from commercial extinction.

As The Independent reported at the weekend there are moves by Japan and DG Mare, the marine and fisheries directorate of the European Commission, to undermine the ban on international trade in bluefin until stocks recover that has been proposed by France, Britain, Germany, the Netherlands, Austria and Poland.

We, The End of the Line campaign, are calling on President Barroso to show leadership. The letter we have sent is below and we shall add any more prominent signatures as they come in.

19 July 2009

Dear President Barroso

You may be aware that the film “The End of the Line” based on the book by British journalist and author, Charles Clover, has had a tremendous impact in the United Kingdom and elsewhere in Europe following its general release in June this year.

The story is a simple one - the massive public policy failure of fisheries policies around the world and, in particular, highlighting the EU’s own lamentable Common Fisheries Policy. The film describes graphically the plight of the Atlantic bluefin tuna, a magnificent animal now sadly fished almost to the brink of extinction.

The film has alerted the public to the tragedy of the oceans. Your Commission has a chance to show the European public that you are able to take corrective action. On Wednesday 9th September, the Commission is expected to be presented with a choice on the fate of the bluefin tuna.

On the one side, the fate of this animal can continue to rest with the Regional Fisheries Management Organisation, ICCAT. On past evidence this will be a disaster.

The alternative is the option recently proposed by the Government of Monaco and supported inter alia by various Commission services (although not DG MARE apparently) as well as by several Member States.

This would involve the listing of the tuna as an endangered species under Appendix 1 of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, CITES.

The choice calls for your leadership, Mr President. You will be acutely aware that the European public would be outraged if an emblematic species like the bluefin tuna would go extinct on your watch.

We call on you and your Commission to do the right thing and give the tuna the absolute protection it deserves.

Yours sincerely

Greta Scacchi
Stephen Fry
Colin and Livia Firth
Richard E Grant
Sophie Dahl
Emilia Fox
Tom Aikens
Sophie Andrieu
Joanna Lumley
Charles Dance
Fiona Shaw
Elle MacPherson
Zac Goldsmith
Damian Aspinall
Ben Elliot
Ben Goldsmith
Kate Goldsmith
Baron Eric De Rothschild
Laura Bailey
Valeria Golino
Ted Danson
Alan Rickman
Prince Urbano Barberini


Sarkozy takes the lead on saving the bluefin tuna

President Sarkozy of France has announced his country’s support for a ban on international trade in endangered bluefin tuna before it disappears forever from the sea and our plates.

His initiative was followed quickly by a similar announcement by Huw Irranca-Davies, the British fisheries minister.

The backing of two major EU countries for a ban on the international bluefin tuna trade has instantly given weight and momentum to the campaign by Monaco - and our film, The End of the Line - to have the bluefin listed under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) next year.

Fishermen haul in a catch of Northern bluefin tuna (Thunnus thynnus) caught with the traditional Mattanza fishing method, Mediterranean Sea

Fishermen haul in a catch of Northern bluefin tuna (Thunnus thynnus) caught with the traditional 'Mattanza' fishing method, Mediterranean Sea

The United States will now be under pressure to respond. Speaking at the close of a national stakeholder consultation on France’s future sustainable fisheries and maritime policy, President Sarkozy said: “France supports listing bluefin tuna on the CITES convention to ban international trade.”

He added: “Ours is the last generation with the ability to take action before it’s too late – we must protect marine resources now, in order to fish better in future. We owe this to fishermen, and we owe it to future generations.” Continue reading ‘Sarkozy takes the lead on saving the bluefin tuna’


Bluefin tuna collapsed in 2007, says new report

The breeding population of bluefin tuna in the Eastern Atlantic and the Mediterranean has collapsed, in what may come to be seen as one of the world’s most spectacular ecological disasters, according to an independent report.

  • The 2008 bluefin tuna dossier - Advanced Tuna Ranching Technologies [pdf of the full report by Roberto Mielgo]

The destruction of stocks of one of the world’s most expensive fish, already recognised as being as endangered as the giant panda, effectively took place in 2007, more than twice the legal catch was taken by Mediterranean fishermen under the eyes of EU and UN-recognised officials, according to the report.

Bluefin tuna image from The 2008 bluefin tuna dossier by Advanced Tuna Ranching Technologies

Bluefin tuna image from The 2008 bluefin tuna dossier by Advanced Tuna Ranching Technologies

If the analysis of the size and weight of tuna now passing through the Japanese market is representative of what remains in the sea, according to the report, the EU and other Atlantic nations have presided over disaster comparable to that of the collapse of the blue whale or the Northern cod.

Environmentalists blame the final destruction of what was the largest population of a fish which is known to have been hunted for 7,000 years on a catastrophic failure of governance by the EU and the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT).

Rampant illegal fishing with spotter aircraft, fast power-boats and the full modern hi-tech arsenal of fishing technology has hastened the decline.

A-list diners, including Charlize Theron, Sting and Elle Macpherson signed a letter of protest last week to Nobu Matsuhisa, the world-famous fushion chef, threatening to boycott his restaurants unless he takes the endangered bluefin tuna off the menu.

According to the latest report, released to coincide with World Oceans Day by the independent consultant Roberto Mielgo, 70 per cent of the bluefin tuna in the Japanese market between July 1 last year and May 1 this year were below 90 kilos in weight.

Some 33 per cent of the tunas on the Japanese market were below the legal size of 30 kg when caught – a major indictment of the inspection regime run by Mediterranean countries under the supervision of ICCAT.

Mr Mielgo said: “If this analysis of what is on the Japanese auction markets corresponds to what is left in the sea, we are in deep trouble. It means the adult bluefins are no longer there. If that is what is at sea, the stock will not recoup.

“My view is that the stock collapsed in 2007 as a result of the 2007 fishing season in which 61,000 tons of bluefin were caught. The fishery should have been closed in 2007.”

The 61,000 tons recorded in official catch figures in 2007 was twice the legal quota agreed by EU nations and ICCAT, four times what scientists advised was responsible and six times what ICCAT’s own scientists said was needed for the recovery of the stock.

Ten years ago, the majority of bluefin tuna in the Japanese market were medium-sized mature adults of 120 kgs or more and the stock structure wholly different to what it is now. Now a third of it is below the minimum landing size and causing concern even among Japanese tuna traders who dislike selling small fish.

Mr Mielgo’s report concludes: “The massive presence in the Japanese market of juvenile bluefin tunas having been illegally caught and farmed points to the failure of current control schemes, including the credibility of observers filling in caging declarations.”

Mr Mielgo is a tuna farmer turned whistle-blower. The report by his consultancy, Advanced Tuna Ranching Technologies, goes even further than trends presented earlier this year by WWF using official figures which showed that the population of breeding tuna in 2007 was only a quarter of that 50 years ago.

According to WWF’s analysis, the bluefin breeding population will disappear by 2012 under the current fishing regime. It called for the immediate closure of the fishery.

Mr Mielgo’s report says the age-profile of tunas on the Japanese market “is consistent with the hypothesis of an on-going collapse of the breeding population of this stock.”

He added: “It’s not that I am a pessimist. There is no way this population is going to pick up. Again, I hope I am wrong. The fish are not there.”

Dr Sergi Tudela, head of fisheries for the Mediterranean, said: “Our position in April, based on ICCAT data, is that the spawning stock will have been wiped out by 2012.

“This new data is a further indication of what we said then, which is that the spawners are disappearing. The reproducing stock is in serious trouble. This shows the bluefin is in dire straits.”

Mr Mielgo is featured in the film, The End of the Line, which has its national public premiere in 50 British cinemas tomorrow.


Turkey gobbles up tuna

No, this is not another story about the crazy things we feed to our farm animals, but rather yet another sad tale of failure in fisheries management … and yet another nail in the coffin for bluefin tuna in the Mediterranean.

Quite apart from the fact that ICCAT (the body responsible for managing fish like bluefin tuna) has been repeatedly denounced as not fit for the job (specifically it was called an ‘international disgrace’ last year); and aside from the politicians having yet again set quotas for bluefin tuna in excess of the scientists recommendations; skipping over the issue of rampant illegal fishing for this species; and parking the small issue of this being an endangered species… Turkey has just unilaterally set itself a quota for bluefin, breaking international commitments and sticking two fingers up at any coordinated attempt to manage the species across national boundaries.

This is on top of a Greenpeace investigation revealing that between 5 and 10 tonnes of juvenile bluefin tuna had been landed in a Turkish port.

Now, as we know, fish (and other animals) don’t respect national boundaries, so in theory some international cooperation is a good idea when it comes to looking after these animals. Right? You’d think. But in true tragedy-of-the-commons style, that is often scant comfort for things that live in the ocean. Fish are horse-traded against other political issues, and compliance and enforcement is, well, variable to say the least.

But think for a moment, to what might happen if bluefin tuna were not a fish, but a land animal, like the similarly endangered rhino, tiger, or gorilla … would this be allowed to happen?

Maybe bluefin are just not cuddly enough, and a little too tasty – but they are amazing animals. This is one of the reasons why bluefin are the tragic stars of the new movie, The End Of The Line. If they were mammals they might be admired for their size (like elephants), speed (like cheetahs) or their place as a top predator (like tigers).

Sadly – they are more likely to be appraised only for the amount of dollars or yen they fetch at market. Of course this is scandalously short-sighted, and our collective greed and disregard is pushing the species towards extinction.

The people in charge of ‘managing’ bluefin tuna have failed – it’s time for a new approach, and for the species to be treated as it would be if it were an endangered animal on land. And with politicians and fishermen unwilling to do the right thing, it’s time for consumers and suppliers to take a stance.

So it’s up to the big players like Nobu, who serve up bluefin as sushi to celebrity diners, and Mitsubishi, who are the biggest traders in bluefin in the Mediterranean.

Not only should we all be avoiding bluefin on our menus, but also demanding our politicians take action to turn things around, and hopefully rescue the species from the abyss. The first step in the Mediterranean would be a ban on fishing all bluefin until such time as the management and enforcement was sorted out, and in setting aside areas where we know bluefin breed as protected Marine Reserves.

Otherwise, it might well be the end of the line for an iconic ocean species.


US trade embargo could save bluefin tuna

US domestic trade legislation could be used to save the Atlantic bluefin tuna after the failure of an international body to restrict rampant over-fishing of the endangered species.

Conservationists and concerned scientists are discussing applying for a US import ban after a UN-recognised body set up to manage Atlantic and Mediterranean tunas awarded fishermen a total allowable catch in excess of what scientists recommended amid warnings that the stock could collapse.

Member nations of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas awarded fishermen in the Mediterranean and Eastern Atlantic a quota of 22,000 tons this year against a scientific recommendation of 8,000-15,000 tons.

The United States is now a net importer of bluefin tuna, which would mean import restrictions against fish caught and ranched in the Mediterranean could have an effect on reducing international trade and placing pressure on other nations to follow suit.

Options being discussed by conservationists include a listing under the US Endangered Species Act and a listing under Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), which restricts trade in caviar and elephant ivory, but both of these would be hotly opposed by fishermen and fishing nations.

A resolution by the UN general assembly to reduce catches of bluefin tuna is another option under consideration.

Andrew Sharpless, executive director of Oceana, said: “ICCAT has shown that its true name is I CAN’T. It can’t find the courage to save the bluefin tuna from being commercially hunted and killed to where it is in danger of disappearing forever. Continue reading ‘US trade embargo could save bluefin tuna’