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Greenpeace About Bluefin: Final Feeding Frenzy Of A Failing Fishery

Disregarding agreed bluefin tuna quotas, the Turkish government has set itself a unilateral bluefin tuna quota and broken its international commitments. The announcement comes just weeks into the 2009 bluefin tuna fishing season, and just over a week after Greenpeace uncovered an illegal landing of between 5 and 10 tonnes of juvenile bluefin tuna in the Turkish port of Karaburun - On 30 April 2009, the Yasar Reis II, unauthorized to fish for bluefin tuna in either the Turkish or ICCAT registries, landed between 400 and 500 of 12 to 20 kg each.

Management of bluefin tuna is entrusted to the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT), an intergovernmental organisation in which the European Union is an active and influential member. The Turkish government objected to the bluefin tuna quota decided and agreed upon at the ICCAT meeting last November.

Turkey currently operates the largest Mediterranean fleet fishing for bluefin tuna, an endangered species facing imminent collapse. Alongside ICCAT quotas, a minimum legal landing size is set at 30 kg to allow for at least one reproduction cycle before any catch. Catches below this minimum legal size limit have recently been reported by both Turkish and Italian media.

"Ignoring quota limits means that Turkey will simply bring an end to the bluefin tuna business even faster and once and for all, through the commercial extinction of the species," said Banu Dokmecibasi, Greenpeace Mediterranean Oceans Campaigner, in Turkey.

Since 2006, scientists have been ringing the alarm bell on the dire state of the bluefin tuna stock. They have advised not to fish above a maximum of 15,000 tonnes, and to protect the species' spawning grounds during the crucial months of May and June. Not only are the spawning grounds rampaged by industrial fleets every year, but the actual haul has been estimated at 61,100 tonnes in 2007, twice the legal catch agreed that year, and more than four times the recommended level to avoid collapse of the bluefin tuna population. This year, a 'recovery plan' for bluefin tuna will still allow legal fishing that is 47% above the upper sustainable limit.

"The scientific advice shows that this so-called recovery plan would be better called a fisheries suicide pact," said François Provost, Greenpeace International Oceans Campaigner. "Turkey, and all other fishing nations including European countries, should immediately close the bluefin fishery until its management is based on science, fishing capacity is decreased to sustainable levels and marine reserves are established to protect all the species' breeding grounds."

Greenpeace advocates the creation of a network of no-take marine reserves, protecting 40% of the world's oceans, as the long term solution to the overfishing of tuna and other species, and the recovery of our overexploited oceans.