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WWF: Not A Single Tuna RFMO Is Doing A Good Job In Any Area

San Sebastian, Spain: International tuna treaty parties have totally failed to come up with ways to cap fishing capacity, are mostly failing to follow the advice of their own scientists and are making only slow progress in reducing illegal fishing and overfishing and bycatch of other marine life, according to a new assessment by WWF.

Three scorecards, covering the management of fisheries, and performance in reducing illegal fishing and levels of bycatch, were issued as representatives of around 80 nations involved in the five tuna Regional Fisheries Management Organizations (RFMOs) gathered in San Sebastian, Spain amid rising global awareness and concern on tuna.

WWF found that not one of the tuna RFMOs is doing a good job in any area.  Most are making slow progress and have room for improvement, but some are falling way short in important areas.

In general terms, governments are performing most poorly in the area of conservation and management of tuna stocks, with little advance in the key area of addressing the size and capacity of the fleets chasing fewer and fewer fish.

All 23 identified, commercially exploited stocks of tuna are heavily fished, with at least nine classified as fully fished and a further four classified as overexploited or depleted. Three stocks are classified as Critically Endangered, three as Endangered, and three as Vulnerable to extinction.

 “Our assessment shows a resource in trouble, fisheries in trouble and institutions in trouble,” said Miguel Jorge, Marine Director at WWF International.  “But we believe there is still time to protect key ocean ecosystems where tuna is a top predator, and conserve the fisheries and the communities that depend on them.”

“We now have too much experience to ignore on how fast over-exploited fisheries collapse and how slowly, if at all, they recover.  With Bluefin tuna none of the collapsed populations are recovering and the remaining populations are clearly éheading towards collapse.”

WWF will be asking the meeting to do more to prevent bycatch of turtles, sharks, juvenile tuna and other animals.  Key measures will involve more effective regulation of the bycatch problem associated with the use of Fish Aggregation Devices (FADs).

“We know enough right now for governments to immediately adopt and implement best-practices to avoid bycatch,” said Jorge.  “Even best-practices can be improved, so ongoing research and on-the-water trials are critical to bring bycatch as close to zero as possible.”

WWF’s assessment traced progress on key fisheries management measures since the first global meeting of governments involved in tuna fisheries, in Kobe, Japan in 2007.  That meeting agreed on a 14 point action plan for all RFMOs.

“So far, we haven’t seen much action,” said Jorge.

 “We know what needs to be done. What we would like to see from San Sebastian are clear sings that the community of tuna nations is setting up global consensus on real moves towards addressing the key issues of over-capacity and bycatch.