European funds have been used to finance the overexploitation of bluefin tuna in the Mediterranean. A report published recently by WWF denounces the fleet’s overcapacity. According to Oceana´s data, overcapacity in Mediterranean bluefin tuna fishery has been financed with more than 16 million Euros from EU funds, without counting other aid, such as fuel subsidies distributed within the framework of de minimis aid. The EU purse seine fleets involved in this fishery are from Spain, France and Italy.
Spain: EU funds have been used to subsidise the construction of all of the bluefin tuna purse seiners in the Spanish fleet. More than €1.3M from public funding has been invested.
Italy: The older Italian purse seine fleet has been modernised with significant subsidies and its capacity has increased substantially thanks to European funds, estimated by Oceana at more than €8M.
France: The 36 French purse seiners authorised in 2008 to catch bluefin tuna have also received substantial subsidies, for a total of nearly €6M. The number of subsidized vessels is amplified by the units that have been transferred to Libya, where the inexistence of control measures favours the illegal fishing of this endangered species.
Xavier Pastor, Director of Oceana in Europe, has reported this fact: “The overexploitation of the bluefin tuna has been promoted and financed by European taxpayers and continues through the subsidising of operating costs, such as fuel. This is one of the clearest examples of how the subsidy system has lead to the decline of fisheries resources and the overcapacity of the EU fleet.”
Furthermore, the marine conservation organisation has stressed that the management measures and actions carried out by the governments participating in this fishery do not correspond to the reality of the fleet and the state of bluefin tuna stocks. Most of the governments implement measures within their policies, including conservation measures, systematic control of the vessels, or the fight against illegal fishing practices. However, scientific recommendations are still being ignored and excessive quotas are established, the fleets continue to fish in spawning grounds, undersized tunas are still being caught, illegal vessels catch and land bluefin tuna in unauthorised ports, the fleets continue to ignore the assigned quotas and do not declare the catches... And these facts constitute only the most blatant part of the decline of bluefin tuna stocks in the Mediterranean.
This week, the fleet is preparing itself and waiting in port for the schools of tuna to arrive. The beginning of the fishing campaign will be developed in the Balearic Islands fishing grounds, where tuna is caught as it arrives to spawn. Part of the fleet implicated in this fishery operates from the port of San Carles de la Rápita, in Tarragona, where Italian longliners and purse seiners can be found, and the port of Ametlla, where the six vessels that make up the Spanish fleet of seiners wait for the banks of bluefin tuna to arrive. In France, the group of modern purse seiners waits at the docks of the port of Sête along with older French and Turkish seiners, now flying the Libyan flag.
Xavier Pastor has stressed the importance of applying urgent measures concerning this new bluefin tuna campaign: “Member states such as Spain, and the EU, need to apply urgent measures, such as the fishery closure in the spawning area of the Balearic Islands, or advocate for the closure of other important areas such as the Gulf of Lion, in order to prevent catching juvenile bluefin tuna”. In an international context, he adds: “In November, ICCAT could decide a bluefin tuna quota reduction for the 2009 campaign…The most urgent question concerning this is: Will there be any bluefin tuna left by then?”