The 22nd regular meeting of the ICCAT is part of the Mediterranean Basin progressive political framework that focuses on the fishing of Bluefin Tuna. A number of NATO and military ships from ICCAT member states, in particular France and Italy, were busy around Libyan water and the Gulf of Syrte. Tuna fishing boats and their escorts have been sending Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) signals from this area prohibited from Bluefin fishing with a peak of activity in May and June. These ships fly primarily Italian, Maltese, French and Tunisian flags. Both the ICCAT and European Union do not have clear explanations for this large amount of activity. Investigations are underway and the question will be addressed during intercession. Countries at war often find that their biodiversity is pillaged. The new representative of the free Libyan people has not made up his mind on the matter. He did, however, called on member states of the ICCAT to only authorize his country to use any remaining quota from 2011 over the next two years (902 tons). Recall that 10 purse seine fishing boats flying the Libyan flag are laid up in the ports of Marseille and Sete. (1)
Since June 1st, 2010, a Bluefin Catch Document and a Bluefin Tuna Reexport Certificate must accompany the movements of Bluefin Tuna from capture to sale. However, the scourge of illegal fishing and international smuggling of Bluefin Tuna is alive and well. During this meeting, the ICCAT must define the circumstances of its cooperation with the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flower and Fauna. CITES relies on customs services as well as those of INTERPOL. The current document remains incomplete. Robin des Bois calls on member states to define an operational strategy that builds off the two complementary conventions and their respective resources. Recall that the NGO supports listing Bluefin Tuna in Appendix II of CITES, which controls international trade. The French Minister of Ecology, as well as the Minister of Food, Agriculture and Fish declared that they are working on such an entry according to a joint press release on March 19th, 2010. Today, it sits under a pile of folders (2).
Other species of tuna are not spared. Yellowfin, skipjack and big-eyed tunas are victims of collateral damage due to pirating in the Indian Ocean since the powerful European and Asian tuna fishing boats have been in the rich waters of the Gulf of Guinea.
Fish aggregating devices rake up the young yellowfin tuna. Buoys or floats are tethered together making a support under which fish group themselves naturally. It is sometimes represented as a tool for long-lasting fisheries. Indeed, it is durable and even becomes a rotting, floating litter. FAD is a non-selective attraction that disturbs biological cycles and the behavior of yellowfin and skipjack tuna. Off of West Africa, skipjack captures have increased 35% compared to the middle of 2005-2009. As for the big-eyed Tuna, the scientific committee found that there is considerable uncertainty on the stocks assessment. This is evidence that the catches made by pirate longliners flying flags of convenience were not properly evaluated. This empty statistic is alarming. Finally, in 2010, pressure on albacore tuna populations from the North Atlantic increased and catches rose by 25% compared to 2009.
(1) Ships under the Libyan flag at the Port of Sete:
http://agriculture.gouv.fr/la-france-reaffirme-sa-volonte-de,1572 (in french)
Read the statement from November 16th, 2010