Half of the tuna caught last year was illegal

Half of the tuna caught last year was illegal

Stocks at high risk of collapse

The International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) estimates that 51 per cent of all the blue fin tuna caught in the Mediterranean last year was illegal and unauthorised.

The under-reporting of blue fin tuna catches was stressed by the scientific body of the organisation, which is preparing for next month's crucial meeting where new quotas will be agreed upon for next year's fishery.

According to ICCAT's estimates, the total catch for 2007 amounted to 61,000 tonnes, when the agreed quota for that year was 29,500.

Scientists maintained that the bad state of the tuna fishery has not improved despite a recovery plan implemented over the past two years by countries fishing this species.

As part of its EU obligations, Malta is also implementing the recovery plan, which will see a reduction of 25 per cent of its quota over a four-year period.

The plan, adopted in 2006, was initially established to halt the decline of the blue fin tuna population in the Mediterranean.

However, the scientific committee, after evaluating the plan's potential effects and its application during the last two fishing seasons, concluded that mortality from fishing continues to be too high, more than three times what is estimated to be sustainable.

Stocks are at high risk of collapse, which would have serious consequences for fisheries.

Xavier Pastor, the director of Oceana, an organisation that works to protect the world's oceans, said that drastic measures have to be taken next month if blue fin tuna is to be saved. "Scientists have made the situation clear and now it is necessary for ICCAT and all the states involved in blue fin tuna exploitation to act in order to halt the decline and prevent a collapse. Drastic measures should be adopted, such as closing the Mediterranean tuna fishery from June to August, the blue fin tuna's reproductive months."

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