Emp­ty­ing the seas

Soar­ing con­sumer de­mand for tuna is de­plet­ing the seas of the fish.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - FRONT PAGE - By ROBYN DIXON

NA­TIONS whose fleets fish for bluefin tuna and sharks ended a meet­ing in South Africa without reach­ing agree­ment on ac­tion to pro­tect crit­i­cally en­dan­gered species.

A pro­posal to ban fish­ing of the crit­i­cally en­dan­gered por­bea­gle shark was blocked at the eight-day meet­ing in Cape Town of the In­ter­na­tional Com­mis­sion for the Con­ser­va­tion of At­lantic Tu­nas (ICCAT), a body con­sist­ing of ma­jor At­lantic tuna and shark fish­ing na­tions, as well as other At­lantic coast na­tions, ac­cord­ing to en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists who ob­served the meet­ing.

The por­bea­gle shark ( Lamna na­sus), known for its low re­pro­duc­tive ca­pac­ity, was listed in March by the Con­ven­tion on In­ter­na­tional Trade in En­dan­gered Species, which re­quires coun­tries trad­ing in the species to prove they are do­ing it sus­tain­ably af­ter next Septem­ber.

For the third time, the ICCAT na­tions also de­layed the com­pul­sory im­ple­men­ta­tion of mea­sures to track tuna catches elec­tron­i­cally from ocean to port to mar­ket, a cru­cial mea­sure de­signed to re­duce ram­pant fraud in an in­dus­try where the amount of At­lantic bluefin tuna caught in the eastern At­lantic is 57% higher than the catch limit be­tween 2001 and 2008, ac­cord­ing to a 2013 study.

Crit­ics say that un­til stronger mea­sures are taken to stamp out il­le­gal fish­ing and fraud, tuna catch quo­tas are mean­ing­less. Much of the il­le­gal tuna fish­ing, by ves­sels from wealthy na­tions such as South Korea, oc­curs off­shore of some of the world’s poor­est na­tions in West Africa. But ICCAT also failed to take any ac­tion to ban ves­sels caught fish­ing il­le­gally off West Africa.

The World Wildlife Fund said that tuna fish­ing in the At­lantic was still “out of con­trol” be­cause of false re­port­ing on catches. Last year, it re­ported that 20,000 tonnes of un­re­ported tuna was sold, mainly in Ja­pan.

The ICCAT na­tions did main­tain catch lim­its

on At­lantic bluefin tuna. They also an­nounced steps to force large fish­ing ves­sels to carry a unique iden­ti­fi­ca­tion num­ber be­gin­ning in 2016, af­ter many cases of il­le­gal fish­ing off West Africa, with ships of­ten chang­ing names and flags in or­der to evade sanc­tions over il­le­gal fish­ing.

“Sharks is where they re­ally dropped the ball,” said El­iz­a­beth Wil­son, di­rec­tor of the Pew Char­i­ta­ble Trusts’ in­ter­na­tional ocean pol­icy unit, which had ob­server sta­tus at the gath­er­ing.

“There was very lit­tle dis­cus­sion about sharks. They barely even talked about it in their meet­ings, which is very dis­ap­point­ing,” she said in a phone in­ter­view af­ter the meet­ing ended.

“I think there are some coun­tries that are catch­ing a lot of sharks and they have the abil­ity to do that in com­pletely un­reg­u­lated fish­eries and they don’t want catch lim­its. The end re­sult is that ICCAT is fail­ing to take ac­tion on sharks. It’s a re­ally frus­trat­ing sit­u­a­tion,” Wil­son said.

Crit­ics also at­tacked ICCAT’s fail­ure to take ac­tion to pro­tect two other vul­ner­a­ble shark species in the At­lantic, the shortfin mako and blue shark, as the amount of sharks taken con­tin­ues to climb.

Sharks are of­ten caught pri­mar­ily for fins used in shark fin soup in Asia. Crit­ics men­tioned Ja­pan, China and South Korea as na­tions that blocked mea­sures to pro­tect sharks at the ICCAT meet­ing. Canada op­posed a ban on the crit­i­cally en­dan­gered por­bea­gle shark, ac­cord­ing to ob­servers.

An es­ti­mated 100 mil­lion sharks are killed ev­ery year, ac­cord­ing to a March sci­en­tific study in the jour­nal Marine Pol­icy, which said the num­ber could be as high as 273 mil­lion. The study found that sharks were be­ing over­fished far be­yond their abil­ity to re­cover.

“Bi­o­log­i­cally, sharks sim­ply can’t keep up with the cur­rent rate of ex­ploita­tion and de­mand. Pro­tec­tive mea­sures must be scaled up sig­nif­i­cantly in or­der to avoid fur­ther de­ple­tion and the pos­si­ble ex­tinc­tion of many shark species,” said the re­port’s lead au­thor, Boris Worm, a marine bi­ol­o­gist at Dal­housie Univer­sity in Hal­i­fax, Nova Sco­tia, at the time the study was re­leased.

Wil­son said Euro­pean na­tions and some other coun­tries at the ICCAT meet­ing took a strong stance on shark pro­tec­tion, but weren’t able to push through pro­tec­tive mea­sures. “There were some coun­tries try­ing to be proac­tive on sharks but it’s the same coun­tries year af­ter year that con­tinue to block these pro­pos­als,” she said.

Wil­son also ex­pressed con­cern that af­ter push­ing back the dead­line to in­tro­duce elec­tronic mon­i­tor­ing of tuna fish­ing for a third year run­ning, fish­ing na­tions would con­tinue to de­lay the sys­tem’s im­ple­men­ta­tion in the fu­ture. The mon­i­tor­ing sys­tem has been pushed back to 2015.

“There is clear ev­i­dence of con­tin­ued il­le­gal fish­ing in the eastern At­lantic bluefin fish­ery. De­lay­ing the elec­tronic bluefin catch doc­u­ment sys­tem for an­other year leaves loop­holes wide open for fraud and il­le­gal fish­ing. It un­der­mines man­age­ment ef­forts and threat­ens the re­cov­ery of this se­verely de­pleted species,” Wil­son said.

Sergi Tudela, a fish­eries spokesman for WWF, de­plored the lack of ac­tion to pro­tect sharks or take tough ac­tion against those with a his­tory of il­le­gal fish­ing.

“Fail­ure to ad­dress coun­tries’ fail­ure to com­ply with rules re­mains an is­sue of grave con­cern,” he said. Tudela said the WWF was par­tic­u­larly dis­ap­pointed by the lack of po­lit­i­cal will from ICCAT mem­ber coun­tries to ef­fec­tively ad­dress il­le­gal and un­re­ported fish­ing. – Los An­ge­les Times/McClatchy Tri­bune In­for­ma­tion Ser­vices

Spe­cialty seafood like tuna sashimi are loved the world over.

an at­lantic bluefin tuna be­ing lifted by a crane dur­ing the open­ing of the sea­son for tuna fish­ing in the port of bar­bate, cadiz prov­ince, south­ern Spain.

bluefin tuna be­ing cut at a sushi restau­rant out­side Tsuk­iji fish mar­ket in Tokyo, Ja­pan. en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists are call­ing for stronger mea­sures to stamp out il­le­gal fish­ing of tu­nas.

ac­tivists protest­ing against the killing of blue sharks, now clas­si­fied as near-threat­ened on the red List of the In­ter­na­tional Union for con­ser­va­tion of na­ture out­side the Muji su­per­mar­ket chain in Tokyo in oc­to­ber.

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