COUNTRIES are ignoring limits on fishing in the Mediterranean Sea, endangering the existence of one of the highly prized bluefin tuna, the environmental campaign group WWF said yesterday. The green group is staging protests outside a meeting in Seville, Spain this week of the body which governs tuna fishing, to pressure governments to stick to quotas which aim to keep fish stocks viable but that, it says, are being flouted. “We have now reached crisis point for bluefin tuna in the Mediterranean,” said Sergi Tudela, of WWF's Rome-based Mediterranean project. WWF, formerly the World Wildlife Fund, estimated that 45'000-50'000 tonnes of bluefin tuna were caught in 2004, well beyond the 32'000 tonne quota allowed by the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT). It expects the over-fishing to be even greater this year and says the practice of tuna farming - fattening up the wild fish in cages, often to produce much sought-after sushi-quality tuna - was “spiralling out of control”. “Current levels of fishing are 2.5 times higher than the bluefin tuna populations can sustain,” said Tudela. “This ongoing mismanagement will lead to the commercial extinction of bluefin tuna.” The WWF defines “commercial extinction” as an extreme depletion of a fish species so it is no longer available in any significant number.
The group is pushing ICCAT to reduce the bluefin tuna fishing season by two weeks and implement monitoring of “purse seining” where tuna are trapped by large weighted nets or caught in nets which exceed the EU limits. The Balearics is a hot spot for tuna fishing, especially during the summer, but also attracts pirate fleets using illegal-sized nets from as far away as Taiwan.


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