The European Commission emphasized the fact that Member states have not complied with the Bluefin Tuna Recovery Plan.
Regulation 530/2008, published today in the Official Journal of the European Union, announces the closure of the bluefin tuna fishery on June 16 for the purse seine fleets of France, Italy, Cyprus, Malta and Greece. The closure for the 6 seiners that make up the Spanish fleet will be delayed until June 23.
From these dates forward, it will be prohibited to retain on board, place in cages for fattening or farming, tranship, transfer or land bluefin tuna caught by these vessels.
The fishery’s closure had originally been planned for July 1, according to the measures put in place by the Bluefin Tuna Recovery Plan adopted by the EU. The early closure is due to Community purse seine vessels’ repeated failure to comply with community legislation for this threatened species.
Oceana has been documenting these fleets’ activities in fishing grounds of the Balearic Islands for a few weeks, including the illegal employment of small planes to locate schools of tuna. The marine conservation organisation is calling for the creation of a bluefin tuna marine sanctuary in this area which is highly important for this species’ reproduction, and as such supports the proposal put forth by the organisation WWF and based on scientific studies.
Oceana’s MarViva Med vessel is currently in waters around Malta documenting this fishery. Xavier Pastor, Executive Director of the organisation and leading campaigner on board, declared: “This closure is necessary and urgent, as is curbing the production from the bluefin tuna fattening cages that are spreading all across the Mediterranean and that feed on tuna below the minimum legal size. We congratulate the Commission for adopting this measure. However, we are not sure that it will be totally respected. We will be observing these fleets very closely from the MarViva Med, as well as those from third countries, in order to denounce any kind of illegal fishing activity and to protect this threatened species.”