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Mediterranean bluefin tuna. (Photo: Greenpeace)

Scientists surprised at bluefin tuna recovery

Wednesday, September 26, 2012, 04:30 (GMT + 9)

A preliminary report issued by the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna (ICCAT) highlights the recovery achieved by the bluefin tuna in the past six years, a fact that seems to surprise scientists.

According to the newspaper El País, a draft document that has not been released yet notes that the reduction of the catch quota, the fleet capacity and the imposition of a minimum size of 30 kilograms to capture the specimens contributed to leave behind catastrophic perspectives on its status.

After decades of overfishing, in 2006 ICCAT decided to reduce the fishing quota of bluefin tuna to try to ensure its sustainability. In 2007, the quota was 32,000 tonnes and in 2012 it was 12,900 tonnes.

Now, the latest available data indicate that the measure worked.

Between 4 and 11 September 2012, the entity gathered fifty experts from about 20 countries and those responsible for seine fishing, for trap net fisheries, NGOs and the European Commission (EC) in Madrid.

At the "bluefin tuna stock assessment session" a document had to be drafted for the ICCAT to approve in early October.

For the Scientific Committee of the institution, "the recent trend in the indicators is probably a positive reflection of the recent management measures."

Experts estimate that between 1995 and 2007, real catches of bluefin tuna were much higher than those declared and could have reached from 50,000 to 61,000 tonnes.

"Since 2008, there has been a significant reduction in the reported catches, following the most restrictive quotas," the committee pointed out, which adds that there are methodological uncertainties.

"All the models used by the group show a clear recovery of the reproducer tuna biomass but the speed and extent of this upward trend is still really uncertain," it was added.

"With the recovery plan, the European fleet has stopped capturing one million juveniles per year. Only this measure has had a huge impact on the stock," it is stated.

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) welcomed these advances.

"With all the precautions, WWF welcomes the good news, which is related to the struggle towards the conservation of this species developed by this organization during the last 12 years," said Sergi Tudela, a representative of the NGO.

"We fully support the scientists’ demand to keep current management measures over the next three years, and encourage further efforts to eliminate illegal fishing," he added.

Related article:

- Warnings about bluefin tuna illegal fishing in Spanish waters

By Analia Murias

Photo Courtesy of FIS Member  Greenpeace International - The Netherlands

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