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. Mediterranean tuna at risk from 'bloated' fishing fleet: WWF

by Staff Writers
Geneva (AFP) March 12, 2008
The Mediterranean tuna fishing fleet is so large that its capacity is nearly twice the current quotas, and some 200 ships should be scrapped to conserve stocks, environmental group WWF said Wednesday.

"The failure of international fisheries management has allowed a monster to thrive in the Mediterranean," said Sergi Tudela, head of fisheries at WWF Mediterranean.

"Decision-makers must be bold if the bluefin is to be saved from a sorry fate," he warned.

The fishing fleet from the 11 Mediterranean coastal states -- Algeria, Croatia, France, Greece, Italy, Libya, Malta, Morocco, Spain, Tunisia and Turkey -- has a catch potential of nearly 55,000 tonnes a year, nearly double the internationally agreed quota of 28,500 tonnes, the WWF said.

The Turkish fleet is the most bloated, followed by Italy, Croatia and Libya.

The Mediterranean fleet as a whole needs to shed 229 vessels -- almost a third of the total 617-strong fleet -- to keep fishing capacity within the 2008 legal catch limits imposed by the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT), the WWF report said.

The European Union agreed last year to restrict the fishing of bluefin tuna in the eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean in the hope of reviving dwindling stocks.

Under the 15-year plan the minimum size of fish allowed to be taken was raised from 10 kilogrammes (22 pounds) to 30 to help them reproduce.

The package, which will hit France, Italy and Spain particularly hard as they are the EU's biggest tuna fishing nations, is part of a broader global effort to protect tuna which was agreed last January in Japan.

"The time to act is now -- while there are still bluefin tuna to save in the Mediterranean," urged Tudela.

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