Bluefin Tuna Denied Protection From Global and Black Markets

November concluded the international agreement in Paris concerning the bluefin tuna quota for 2011. For the past years, the bluefin tuna has been listed as endangered and after the disaster of the gulf oil spill have become critically endangered. While some countries have backed a ban on bluefin tuna (this includes the US) others have backed out on large quota cuts for 2011 from 50 percent to a mere 4 percent. According to some scientists, should fishing continue at such a rate, this species will become extinct, most notably in the Mediterranean, by 2012.

In November, 48 countries met for the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) to discuss future plans for bluefin tuna quotas. Currently, France, Italy and Spain catch most of the bluefin tuna that is consumed on the global market while Japan imports about 80 percent of its total catch. The 2010 quota was set to 13,500 tons, down from 19,950 tons from 2009 [Source: World Fishing]. Many environmentalists and scientists have spoken against these high quotas as it does not fit a sustainable model. Members of the European Commissioner for Fisheries and Maritime Affairs urged those in the ICCAT to reduce the quota below 6,000 tons (more than 50 percent) to ensure that there would be viable stock until 2020 and long term sustainability [Source: Times of India]. Unfortunately, after adjournment of the conference, consensus led to only a 4 percent decrease (12,900 tons) in bluefin tuna stock. Those privy to the meeting stated that the quota would actually be around 11,000 and some countries stated that they would not fish their entire quota. Still, by ICCAT’s own calculations, the bluefin tuna only had a 70 percent chance of recovery given the current quota, and in 2009 even stated a global ban of bluefin tuna was justified considering fish spawning biomass was 15% of its pre-industrial fishing stock [Source: Mongo Bay].

While the ICCAT stated that only 11,000 tons would probably be fished, it did not mention any methods on stopping black market trade on the bluefin tuna. According to a report by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, the market has exploded to a $4 billion enterprise and during the height of the blackmarket (1997-2007), nearly one in every three bluefin tuna was caught illegaly. Fishermen and fisheries in and around the Mediterranean were found to be doctoring numbers, regularly and willfully violated quotas, caught undersized fish, and engaged in other illegal practices like trading fishing quotas and using banned spotter planes. While regulations have been tightened in the EU since 2007 (France actually began reporting accurate numbers), less regulated fishing ships off of North Africa and Turkey have taken up where the European fleets left off. Japan is at the heart of the issue, as they took part in black market tuna since the 1980s and consume 80 percent of the world’s bluefin tuna and Mitsubish owns nearly 40 percent of the bluefin tuna market. Should the fish reach the brink of extinction, the company could stand to gain billions of dollars off of its reserve [Source: Treehugger].

Despite the lack of emphasis on bluefin tuna quotas, the ICCAT did offer more protection for hammerhead sharks and whitetip sharks as more countries have begun viewing shark fin as a delicacy (most notably in Asia). Still, the organization has a long way to go before it truly can be called a conservation group and if long-term goals continue to be put aside for short term profit, bluefin tunas may only have one more year before it is overfished to extinction.

Sustainability Ninja
Jasmine Greene


Marcia Shiel
M s6 years ago

iccat is a joke They are useless ,probably being bribed Why should they care about greedy slaughter of creatures that feel pain and suffocate to death while bludgeoned? I hope it happens to them

Lynn D.
Lynn D6 years ago

Thanks for post and info!

colleen prinssen
colleen p7 years ago

wow, it's good more people are caring. here I thought it was a "it's not a wolf, so what"

because "wuffs r the most endangered evah!"

poor pacific bluefin. or was it antlantic blue fin.

could we raise some to set free?

John S.
Past Member 8 years ago

Thanks, 4%?

Martha Eberle
Martha Eberle8 years ago

There are complicated problems in an interconnected world. I don't want to come off as a privileged know-it-all Westerner. I have plenty to eat. Most of the world does not. I understand about extinction. Many, especially if hungry, do not. This does not excuse killing blue fin tuna -- people can eat other things and other fish. However, I wonder, as we vainly try to save species from extinction, if it is possible -- because so much of the world does not understand. Others could care less.

What an absolute shame if we lose another species to extinction.

Nuno Correia
Nuno Correia8 years ago

2012 is very close! I never thought it would happen so soon, but we're pushing too hard.

Carol Cowbrough
Carol C8 years ago

Noted. Thanks.

Frances B.
Frances Bell8 years ago

I had sort of hoped we'd got past the age of total ignorance but I see it's still in full force - and sadly, it's worst in those that are supposed to be leading us in trying to keep hold of what we've got left. When will people wake up and see that we can't keep plundering the oceans and the land, and destroying all the amazing diversity of life within it, without destroying ourselves?

Patrice D.
Patrice D8 years ago

Please forgive my lack of proofreading!

Patrice D.
Patrice D8 years ago

@Doug G. - While I'd love to see the "distress and anguish" of those no longer able to eat bluefin tuna, and all other species they feel the need to eat now that have become extinct, I'm grateful that, at my age, I won't be around. While you may want to see what those people will do, I hope you won't have the "luxury" to experience it because I doubt things will be very pretty when that time comes! Until those of us that care about this planet, and all the species here with us, the total environment, and have no greedy need to fill pockets with money, become part of the majority, will this planet stand a chance of remaining fit for humans - and all species - continue to support life as we know it.

I don't know how, I have no magic bullet to suggest to begin to solve the problems, but I DO somehow hold hope that the CARING and CONCERNED and DEDICATED people will manage to be heard, and will start to awake the people of the world to LOOK at what is happening and REALIZE that steps must be taken NOW to reduce and STOP the damage and destruction humans are causing. The people will somehow "get it" and understand that this planet is the only home we have and when it's damaged beyond repair, their will be no turning back.

Like many of you here on Care2, so much emotion in my heart and so many dreams I want to see come true... When will humans begin to realize the miracle - and - reality of life...