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WWF: Tuna Nations Have To Start Scrapping Vessels Now

At the 2nd RFMO-5 meeting in San Sebastian 50 members governments have decided to convene a series of workshops on the crucial and difficult issues of excess fishing capacity, illegal fishing and bycatch of turtles, sharks, juvenile tuna and other marine life.

While encouraged by these plans, WWF is hoping the outcome will not mirror the result of the first meeting of tuna RFMOs in Kobe, Japan in 2007 - which produced a Plan of Action followed by little action.

“Governments have set the right agenda at this meeting but workshops are not going to bring tuna back from the brink.” said Miguel Jorge, Marine Director at WWF International. “Talk is cheap, what we need is action right away.”

WWF warned the meeting that simply capping fishing capacity at current levels would not be an adequate response to the issue of too many tuna boats chasing too few tuna worldwide.

“Fishing capacity has to be reduced to a level set by scientific advice and adherence to the precautionary principle,” Jorge said. “It is vital also that reductions in capacity should not become a cover for freezing coastal and island developing states out of a fairer share of their own fisheries.”

WWF proposed to the meeting that the capacity issue should be addressed following discussions around fair allocation of the resource with particular attention being paid to the aspirations of coastal and island developing states.

The conservation organization also cautioned coastal and island developing states against using this process as carte blanche to ignore the realities of a limited, and in many cases severely depleted global resource.

Principles for determining allocations which give a high priority to conservation need to be developed and debated and agreed upon with the utmost urgency.

WWF also supports the initiative presented by the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation (ISSF) to hold a workshop involving industry, RFMO national and other interested scientists to assess the impacts of purse seine fishing on juvenile tunas and non-target species, and determine best practices to reduce the impact of tuna fishing on the marine environment.

WWF is calling on tuna fishing nations not to wait for the results of additional workshops to reducing the number of vessels chasing tuna.

“The best available science already tells us that there are too many boats.  Nations can stop building new boats and start scrapping vessels now.” Jorge said.

Most of these nations will be meeting again very soon at the annual meetings of individual RFMOs, and  fair and equitable allocation of the tuna resource between developed and developing nations must be the highest priority.