For Immediate Release, September 7, 2011
Contact: Catherine Kilduff, (415) 644-8580
United States, European Commission Agree to Enforce Fishing Regulations
But Pact Not Enough to Save Atlantic Bluefin Tuna
WASHINGTON— The United States and the European Commission today signed a joint statement vowing to combat illegal fishing. The agreement acknowledges the devastating environmental and socioeconomic effects of seafood black markets, yet marks only a small step forward for fisheries management, as it does little more on a practical level than reaffirm a commitment to enforcing established fishing regulations.
“This agreement’s good in spirit, but in practice it does little to rectify years of overfishing and mismanagement of international fisheries. Trade restrictions for imperiled stocks or sanctions against repeat-offender countries would be more efficient and effective,” said Catherine Kilduff, a staff attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity, which works to save marine species and improve fishery sustainability.
Atlantic bluefin tuna is one example of a fishery with a thriving black market that has decimated populations. On Aug. 10, the Center petitioned the United States to propose listing bluefin under an international treaty, CITES, that would ban cross-border trade of this imperiled fish. CITES, the major global treaty on endangered species, has a record of saving species hurt by international trade. Listing bluefin under CITES would improve catch documentation and certification and stop illegal operators from benefitting from the sale of fish — goals listed in today’s agreement.
“The high seas are an impossibly vast area to enforce fishing regulations, so pulling bluefin tuna from the brink of extinction demands strict rules and oversight of trade,” said Kilduff. “This agreement does nothing to fix underlying problems of conflicts of interest and a lack of transparency in international fisheries management, problems that make the fishing industry ripe for illegal activity.”
Other measures could also help save bluefin tuna. The Endangered Species Act prohibits U.S. trade in protected species and could curb pressure for illegal fishing. However, bluefin awaits legal protections because in June, the National Marine Fisheries Service denied protections and promised to reconsider whether Atlantic bluefin tuna should be listed as endangered or threatened in 2013.
According to a McKinsey & Company report released this month, current bluefin harvesting levels are projected to drive the fishery to collapse between 2012 and 2015. If illegal and unreported fishing could be 100 percent eliminated, the fishery could recover by 2023. But impressively, if the fishery were to be completely closed, according to the report, it would recover within eight years.
More than 25,000 people have joined the Center’s bluefin boycott, pledging not to eat at restaurants serving bluefin tuna; dozens of chefs and owners of seafood and sushi restaurants have pledged not to sell bluefin.
For more information about the Center’s campaign to save the Atlantic bluefin tuna, visit: http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/species/fish/Atlantic_bluefin_tuna/index.html.
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 320,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.