Shocking illegal tuna figures –

Shocking illegal tuna figures Published:  03 June, 2014

AS the Atlantic bluefin tuna purse seine fishing fisheries in the Mediterranean Sea begin to close, a new analysis of media reports shows illegal fishing continues to jeopardise the population’s recovery.

According to an inquiry conducted in cooperation with, The Pew Charitable Trusts has identified at least 79 media reports (73 in Italy, 5 in Spain, 1 in Tunisia) of illegal bluefin seizures in the Mediterranean in the last 12 months.

According to these published reports, authorities seized at least 186 metric tons of tuna – enough bluefin to fill 6 standard 40’ shipping containers. That fishing is in excess of the science-based quota in place, which for the EU amounts to 7,939 metric tonnes per year.

‘Without doubt illegal fishing remains a significant threat to Atlantic bluefin tuna in the Mediterranean and this population has a long way to go before it fully recovers from decades of unsustainable management’, said Amanda Nickson, director of global tuna conservation for The Pew Charitable Trusts.

‘As the fishing season ends, we’re reminded that every fish caught illegally undermines the recovery of this population and the actions of legal fishers operating by the rules within the set quota.’

According to the most recent stock assessment, the eastern bluefin population is still only part of the way to its rebuilding target set by the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT), with the speed and magnitude of this recovery highly uncertain.

Illegal fishing could be immediately and effectively reduced by full implementation of the state of the art electronic catch documentation system – eBCD- which will replace the old, inefficient paper-based system. 

In 2010, ICCAT noted that the paper-based bluefin catch documentation system ‘suffered from a number of shortcomings… which if not improved could weaken the management of E-BFT particularly within the purse seine and farming sectors.’

Further, it recognised that an electronic tracking system was needed to more effectively ‘detect fraud and deter IUU shipments’ as the paper system was inefficient and ineffective at preventing illegal fishing, fraud and misreporting. 

After several years of delays, the electronic system, or eBCD, is finally scheduled to be implemented in March 2015. 

‘With 59 percent of the eastern Atlantic bluefin tuna quota and given the illegal catch uncovered in an informal review of media reporting in the region, it is critical that the EU strongly support the timely implementation of a robust eBCD system to finally address illegal activity and assure buyers that bluefin from its waters have been caught legally.’

In Rossano, Italy, the Coast Guard seized more than 1,700 kilos of bluefin tuna from a factory because the owner could not produce catch documents that could trace the 67 fish.

The Port Authority in Pescara intercepted two vans with one tonne of Bluefin tuna (30 fish) headed for market in Rome, while traffic police in Salerno stopped a truck with 2.5 tonnes of Bluefin tuna with no catch documentation.

One case involved 38 tonnes of bluefin tuna suspected of being illegally traded within Italy and France over a period of more than a year time, worth over 300,000 euro.

Nickson added: ‘We’re pleased to see that authorities are making an effort to crack down on the illegal bluefin trade.

‘Still, these are just the cases we know about. By its very definition, illegal and unreported trade flies under the radar, which makes advances in reporting and technology even more integral to developing a transparent and sustainable trade.’

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