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WWF applauds US and other countries for reconfirming commitment to recovery and management of Atlantic bluefin tuna; urges EU to do the same

Joint Statement by Canada, Japan, Korea and the United States on the Sustainable Use of Atlantic Bluefin Tuna Resources

WWF applauds the United States, Canada, Japan, and Korea for reconfirming their commitment to urgently establishing a science-based recovery and management plan for the overexploited stocks of Atlantic bluefin tuna, in a statement issued this week.  Yet, the global conservation organization is surprised at the absence of the European Union – whose fleets catch most of the fish – in backing the statement.

“WWF congratulates Canada, Japan, Korea and the United States for this loud and clear statement but is alarmed to see that the EU is not among those endorsing the need for sustainable tuna management, especially after being a driving force behind the Doha commitments. Now more than ever, at a time when EU fisheries policy as a whole is supposedly being entirely reformed towards greater sustainability, EU backing is crucial” said Dr Sergi Tudela, Head of Fisheries at WWF.

The statement underlines the need to push for “a comprehensive set of measures for recovery”, “accurate reporting”, restricted fishing capacity, eliminating illegal trade, punitive action in cases of non-compliance with rules, and “monitoring, control and enforcement measures” at the next annual meeting of all ICCAT parties in November in Paris, France.

Specifically, Canada, Japan, Korea and the United States stress the need for “sustainable harvest levels to ensure at least a 60 percent probability” of recovery no later than 2022 – and that in 2009 ICCAT members agreed “to establish a 3-year recovery plan for Eastern Atlantic Bluefin Tuna at (the) 2010 annual meeting, based on advice from the (ICCAT scientific committee), and suspend (bluefin tuna) fisheries for the eastern (Atlantic) stock in 2011 if a serious threat of fishery collapse is detected”.

“The message from Canada, Japan, Korea and the United States to the whole of ICCAT could not be clearer – the time for science-based recovery and management for Atlantic bluefin is now or never, and illegal fishing and trade will no longer be tolerated,” said Sergi Tudela of WWF.

“WWF appeals to the EU and all other ICCAT member countries to back this position. It is for the good of the tuna but also the good of fishermen and their families, for a consumption tradition, and for the marine ecosystem at large – if there’s no more fish, there’s no gain in this for anybody.”

WWF is also extremely concerned with the potential impacts of the recent BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill on the Western Atlantic bluefin tuna populations whose only known spawning ground is in the Gulf of Mexico from late April to early June.  The timing of the recent oil spill disaster could not have come at a worse time for bluefin tuna, which has already suffered over an 82 percent decline during a 38-year period in the latter half of the last century. 

Combined with the threats they face from overfishing, this recent spill could push this overexploited species to the brink and is another urgent reason to implement precautionary management of this species.

To learn more about the impacts of the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico on the populations of Western Atlantic bluefin tuna, please visit: worldwildlife.org/what/howwedoit/policy/oil-disaster-species-impacts.html.

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