Atlantic Bluefin Tuna - The Facts

Atlantic Bluefin Tuna - The Facts

Press Release 9th August 2019

 
The Gibraltar Chronicle published an opinion piece by Mr. Samuel Marrache on the 6th August titled “Dispelling the myths about Atlantic Bluefin Tuna (ABT) fishing in Gibraltar”. This piece came in response to a joint statement issued by The Nautilus Project (TNP) and the Gibraltar Ornithological and Natural History Society (GONHS), which called for the Government to reconsider and remove ABT landings altogether.
 
The opinion piece contains errors that need correcting publicly.  GONHS (as an IUCN member) and TNP have collaborated in their joint response.
 

1. International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Endangered status
 
The organisations have correctly cited IUCN, which states that Atlantic Bluefin Tuna (Thunnus thynnus) is listed as “Endangered” within the Mediterranean. This status implies that a species ”faces a high risk of extinction in the near future”, with the assessment for the species stating that it “has become rare relative to historical levels because of massive overfishing” (IUCN Red List, Faillettaz et al. 2019). Mr Marrache’s article states that ABT are “nowhere near critically endangered”. Neither GONHS nor TNP have ever said that the species is listed as critically endangered.
 
The IUCN, of which the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Climate Change (DEHCC) is also a member, is the globally recognised authority on these matters. It uses available scientific peer-reviewed papers as the basis for its assessments.
 
The author references Species+ incorrectly, as Species+ is an online search engine for species listed under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), which is a HM Customs issue and not relevant to fishing within our waters. In any case, the IUCN has been pushing for ABT to be included in CITES Appendix 1, which if included, would make international trade illegal.
 
2. The article claims that the endangered status is due to historic overfishing and that recent ICCAT data since 2010 claims that ABT have been on the rise since 2010.
 
ICCAT is a management body which is in place to regulate the fisheries of about 30 species. It considers the latest scientific peer-reviewed papers in its conferences, but there is evidence that it has historically ignored scientific advice due to political pressures (Gager et al. 2011).
 
ICCAT data is not submitted to a scientific journal nor are its papers peer-reviewed. Consequently, criticising the IUCN-assigned status as “outdated” whilst quoting ICCAT figures is unjustified at best.
 
The article negates to include sources for its assertion that stocks have been increasing since 2010. The IUCN states that ABT populations are “decreasing” in the Mediterranean (Di Natale et al. 2011) and until new data become available, the precautionary principle must be adhered to.  Anecdotal views are offered to support the view that numbers are increasing due to “magnificent conservation efforts of the past few years”, but a very recent scientific paper suggests that little is known about ABT abundance and spatial distribution (Faillettaz et al. 2019).
 
Total allowable catches (TACs) have been rising since 2010 as evidenced in 2nd ICCAT Performance Review report 2016. By 2017 the TAC was at around 22,500 tonnes, already beginning to approach the 2006 TAC of 32,000 tonnes, when ICCAT was forced to drop the quota because it was unsustainable.
 
3. Gibraltar quota assignment
 
Indeed, ICCAT quotas are not assigned on a per capita basis and yet they are not assigned by access to ABT either, as stated in the opinion piece. And surely, number of potential consumers is a more useful metric than number of potential fishermen, as it is market forces that are endangering the species. Currently, ICCAT uses size-structured population models to calculate the probability that, at a given catch quota, the stock recovers to maximum sustainable yield (MSY) levels by the year 2022. Quotas are set at the highest level of catch that would still allow a 60% (or higher) probability of recovery (Gagern et al. 2011). However, models do not include illegal catch which accounts for up to 57% on top of the set ICCAT quota, and ICCAT routinely sets quotas that exceed scientifically quantified recommendations (Gagern et al. 2011).  Against this background, Gibraltar’s quota is still extremely high when compared to ICCAT quotas for other countries, by any sensible measure.
 
4. Locally supplied tuna is better than Spanish bought tuna
 
The local sale of ABT is rampant, with people advertising it on Facebook and frequent sale by local restaurants. What would be ICCAT’s view on this?  Quoting ICCAT REC 17-07, Part II - Management Measures, Recreational fisheries and sport fisheries, “32. The marketing of bluefin tuna caught in recreational and sports fishing shall be prohibited.”. Is the answer now that Gibraltar doesn’t form part of ICCAT, whilst simultaneously using ICCAT’s quotas to justify our own?
 
5. Tuna fishermen don’t make good money from the sport
 
During the 2017 New Year Auction at Tokyo’s Tsukiji market, a 405Kg ABT was sold for $320,000 (£263,000). In the same market in 2013, a restauranteur paid £43,000 for a 230Kg ABT.
 
In Spain in 2013, a farmed, 184Kg ABT was sold for £5,200. These are not Tokyo prices, but they are tax free.
 
Finally, the amount of money spent by fishermen for recreational activities is not a factor that can be considered when planning the conservation of an endangered species.  Nor are we calling for such equipment to be discarded: GONHS has in the past called for a shift from killing ABT to tag-and-release for research purposes, which could still be carried out by local fishermen.  Both organisations continue to call for this.
 
References

DI NATALE, A. 2011. ICCAT GBYP. Atlantic-wide Bluefin Tuna Research Programme 2010. GBYP Coordinator Detailed Activity Report for 2009-2010. Collect. Vol. Sci. Pap. ICCAT, 66, 995-1009.
FAILLETTAZ, R., BEAUGRAND, G., GOBERVILLE, E. & KIRBY, R. R. 2019. Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillations drive the basin-scale distribution of Atlantic bluefin tuna. Science advances, 5, eaar6993.
GAGERN, A., VAN DEN BERGH, J. & SUMAILA, U. R. 2013. Trade-based estimation of bluefin tuna catches in the Eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean, 2005–2011. PloS one, 8, e69959.
IUCN Red List. Available: Https://www.iucnredlist.org [Accessed 08/08/19 2019]. 
ICCAT 2017. RECOMMENDATION BY ICCAT AMENDING THE RECOMMENDATION 14-04 ON BLUEFIN TUNA IN THE EASTERN ATLANTIC AND MEDITERRANEAN 17-07.
SPENCER, J. M., J.J.; MOLENAAR, E.J.; 2016. REPORT OF THE SECOND INDEPENDENT PERFORMANCE REVIEW. INTERNATIONAL COMMISSION FOR THE CONSERVATION OF ATLANTIC TUNAS (ICCAT). 

 

 

 

Increased Gibraltar Quota of Atlantic Bluefin Tuna

Press Release 2nd August 2019

Increased Gibraltar Quota of Atlantic Bluefin Tuna
 
With the announcement of the 2019 Atlantic Bluefin Tuna (Thunnus thynnus) fishing quota increase to 16.74 tonnes, The Nautilus Project (TNP) and the Gibraltar Ornithological & Natural History Society (GONHS) would like to state their joint position regarding the increase of the quota.
 
The Atlantic Bluefin Tuna is classified as Endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN; https://www.iucnredlist.org/species/21860/9331546), which is considered the most authoritative guide to species’ conservation status.   Under the scientific criteria that it uses, the IUCN considers that the Atlantic Bluefin Tuna “faces a high risk of extinction in the near future”, with the assessment for the species stating that it “has become rare relative to historical levels because of massive overfishing”.
 
Despite calls from both GONHS and TNP over the years to reduce the quota, the decision to increase the local quota makes little sense against the available scientific evidence. Furthermore, although the introduction of increased regulation is a positive step in principle, the organisations still believe that Gibraltar’s quota should be lowered to bring it in line with that of other Mediterranean and eastern Atlantic jurisdictions, all of which have proportionally much smaller quotas. This remains the case even after the latest increases in their quotas by other jurisdictions.
 
It is important that Gibraltar should lead by example in the conservation of this endangered species and as such, should seriously consider not allowing the landing of tuna, which could be replaced instead with a tag-and-release programme.  This would make sense in Gibraltar, where there is no recognised commercial fishing of tuna and all tuna fishing is supposedly recreational.

Atlantic Bluefin Tuna & Dolphin Protection Zone

 

 

With the arrival of the 2018 Atlantic Bluefin Tuna (Thunnus thynnus) fishing season, the Gibraltar Ornithological & Natural History Society (GONHS) would again like to state its position regarding the conservation of this species.

The Atlantic Bluefin Tuna is classified as Endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN; http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/21860/0), which is considered the most authoritative guide to species’ conservation status. Under the scientific criteria that it uses, the IUCN considers that the Atlantic Bluefin Tuna “faces a high risk of extinction in the near future”, with the assessment for the species stating that it “has become rare relative to historical levels because of massive overfishing”.

GONHS urges the Government not to raise the quota later on in the season, as it did last year. Furthermore, although the introduction of regulation was a positive step in principle, GONHS believes that Gibraltar’s quota should be lowered to bring it in line with that of other Mediterranean and eastern Atlantic jurisdictions, all of which have proportionally much smaller quotas.

GONHS believes that Gibraltar should lead by example in the conservation of this endangered species and as such, should explore the possibility of not allowing the landing of tuna, which could be replaced instead with a tag-and-release programme. This would make sense in Gibraltar, where there is no recognised commercial fishing of tuna and all tuna fishing is supposedly recreational.

GONHS welcomes the Government of Gibraltar’s establishment of a Dolphin Protection Zone within the Bay of Gibraltar, in order to prohibit tuna-fishing methods that can be harmful to dolphins, and also supports the new requirement for anglers to report catches of billfish species. This should be coupled with a more realistic approach to Atlantic Bluefin Tuna conservation that is commensurate with the species’ conservation status.

Barbary Partridge Chicks Run Over

The Gibraltar Ornithological & Natural History Society (GONHS) has expressed its grave concern following separate incidents in which two Barbary Partridge chicks were run over on Engineer Road this week.

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Grand Parade Concerns

GONHS notes that HM Government of Gibraltar (HMGoG) presented its plans to construct a new car park at Grand Parade at the most recent meeting of the Development and Planning Commission. Our organisation has a number of concerns regarding this proposed development, which we outlined at this meeting and in a letter to the Minister for the Environment.


The increase in parking spaces shall inevitably lead to an overall increase in traffic and emissions in an already congested Gibraltar, with the consequent adverse effects to the environment. GOG should instead be looking to encourage the public to drive less and consider either walking or using the bus service, which is free.

Although GONHS accepts that the area is currently covered in tarmac, the proposal would place two storeys where there is currently an open area that is surrounded by gardens. This is the last remaining open area until Europa Flats to the south and Commonwealth Park to the north.

We can also expect considerable disruption and air pollution due to dust and increased emissions during the construction phase, as well as noise pollution, which will inevitably have an adverse impact on wildlife within the Alameda Gardens, such as the Spotted Flycatcher, which breeds nowhere else on the Rock.

GONHS urges the Government to consider a more imaginative and environmentally friendly approach, both to the area and traffic management in Gibraltar.

Eurobirdwatch 2017

Millions of migrating birds are leaving Europe towards their wintering sites in Africa. Birds overcome thousands of kilometres and many dangers along their flyways. BirdLife Europe organises a Europe-wide event for people to discover the fascinating world of bird migration.

This year, 40 of the national partners of BirdLife International in Europe invite people to observe and learn about bird migration.  GONHS will hold two events to celebrate EuroBirdwatch in Gibraltar: a sea watch from Europa Point during the afternoon of Sunday 1st October (3-6 pm) and our typical activities at the Alameda Gardens, including bird ringing and a bird of prey display, on Saturday 7th October as from 9 am.

The main aim of EuroBirdwatch is to bring people closer to nature by watching birds and observing their migration.  All of the results from events are collected and compiled.  Last year, EuroBirdwatch involved 37 Partners and almost 30.000 participants, who observed the fascinating migration of seven million birds, including many rare and interesting species.           

For further information on European Birdwatch please visit: www.eurobirdwatch.eu

BirdLife International is a global alliance of conservation organizations working in more than 120 countries, which, together, form the leading authority on the status of birds, their habitats and the issues and problems affecting bird life.

Please also see our Events page where you can also find links to these events on our Facebook page.

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