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Another Fisheries Commission Throws The Science Overboard In Tuna Decision, WWF Says

Tuna Commission is Third in a Row to Disregard Science and Fail to Protect Tuna Populations

BUSAN, South Korea, December 12, 2008 – The Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) decision to make only minor reductions in fishing for bigeye and yellowfin tuna does nothing to help stop the demise of these species, World Wildlife Fund said today. The WCPFC disregarded the advice of its science committee and its chair in making this decision, which comes just a few weeks after the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) and the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC) also rejected their scientists’ pleas for significant cuts to catches in the face of declining tuna populations.

“Commissions charged with protecting tuna populations are proving completely ineffective and inadequate,” said Mark Stevens, senior program officer at World Wildlife Fund. “If they are willing to ignore the advice of their own scientists then we can have little faith in their ability to prevent the demise of this species.”

Measures adopted by the WCPFC allow for a catch reduction of less than seven percent for bigeye and yellowfin tuna, according to WWF, which is well below the scientists’ recommendation of an immediate 30 percent reduction. Several additional measures to monitor these tuna fisheries were discarded or delayed.

Another tuna species, the bluefin tuna, is massively overfished to feed the worldwide sushi market. As bluefin populations dwindle, bigeye and yellowfin tuna stocks are put under intense pressure to compensate.  “Disappearing, collapsing and declining bluefin tuna fisheries increase demand for bigeye and yellowfin tuna to supplement the high value sushi market,” said Stevens. “What we are seeing now is an international tragedy where the failure of one fishery adds stress on others.”

WCPFC’s failures will also have severe impacts on local communities in Pacific island states, where foreign fishing fleets are impacting  the availability of fish and threatening the livelihoods of local fishermen.  “Millions of people in island communities depend on fish from the equatorial Pacific, not only as a primary source of protein, but as a means to work and support their families,” said Stevens. “These massive fishing fleets are on a path to completely wipe out Pacific tuna populations, which will be disasterous for these communities.”

Notes to Editors:

  • The WCPFC, ICCAT and IATTC are regional fisheries management organizations originally established under the framework of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. 
  • In 2006, the WCPFC’s scientists found that overfishing of bigeye tuna was occurring in the western and central Pacific, with a high probability that it had been occurring since 1997. They also warned that urgent action should be taken on overfishing of yellowfin tuna in the same region.
  • In 2006, WCPFC’s scientific committee recommended a 15 percent reduction in Bigeye and Yellowfin tuna catch but these reccomendations were not followed.  This year scientists doubled their recommendation for catch reduction to a minimum of 30 percent. 
  • Since 1996, Bigeye tuna has been listed on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature Red List as “vulnerable.”
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