KEY answers about the migratory behavior of overfished bluefin tuna will be revealed with the launch of a three-year Mediterranean tuna tagging project in Balearic waters, led by WWF scientists later this month. The plan behind this project is to fill the gap between the little we do know about bluefin behavior in the Mediterranean and what we need to know, said Dr Sergi Tudela, Head of Fisheries at WWF Mediterranean. When we have better data, we would urge fisheries decision-makers to use it to make better-informed choices for the management of this endangered species. Bluefin tuna populations have experienced alarming population declines, due to extreme overfishing, poor international conservation management and high levels of illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing.
Current annual catches, which often include juvenile fish, are estimated to be in the region of 60'000 tons - double the level allowed by law and four times the amount considered sustainable by scientists. Bluefin tuna stocks are on the brink of collapsing, which would be catastrophic not only for the species, but for everyone who depends on these fish for their livelihoods and survival, said Mark Stevens, Senior Program Officer for the WWF-US Marine Fisheries Program. This project will help arm us with the information we need to fuel our work to restore tuna populations to healthy levels. Very few tagging studies have been done in the eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean so far, with activity focusing instead mostly on the western Atlantic. WWF's tagging project, called On the Med Tuna Trail, will collect information on the position and depth of tuna.
Pop-up tags will be fitted on adult fish and will record the information at a frequency of once per minute.
The tags release from the fish at a specified time and float to the surface for the data to be read by satellite.
Important lifecycle information on the bluefin will also come from archival tags clipped onto juvenile fish and recovered at their point of catch.
These tagging activities will be launched on August 25 and the full project will run for three years, through 2010. WWF is calling for a recovery period moratorium on bluefin tuna fishing if effective rules for a sustainable fishery cannot be drawn up and enforced.
The organisation is also promoting the establishment of a tuna sanctuary here in the Balearics.
WWF has launched an online boycott of Mediterranean tuna until a recovery and management plan based on science is put in place and is urging consumers to pledge their support. See: http://passport.panda.org
For more on the Mediterranean bluefin crisis and to follow the path of the tuna, visit www.panda.org/tuna and for more information on fisheries and WWF's marine work visit www.worldwildlife.org/waveforward.
For more than 45 years, WWF has been protecting the future of nature. The largest multinational conservation organisation in the world, WWF works in 100 countries and is supported by 1.2 million members in the United States and close to 5 million globally.
WWF's unique way of working combines global reach with a foundation in science, involves action at every level, from local to global, and ensures the delivery of innovative solutions that meet the needs of both people and nature.