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.