With ICCAT in the driving seat, what hope is there for bluefin?

Posted by Willie — 2 June 2010 at 8:14am - Comments

There's an analogy I sometimes use to explain the problem of overfishing. 

Imagine you are in a car hurtling at full speed down a hillside towards a cliff. Your foot is fully down on the accelerator. You have four options. Keep the foot down and plunge to your certain doom. Slam on the brakes and try to stop before you reach the cliff. Take your chances and jump out of the moving car. Or take your foot off the accelerator and just hope you slow down in time. 

Applying that analogy to Atlantic bluefin tuna, what needs to happen is the brake-slamming option.

Missing: bluefin tuna, last seen heading for extinction

Posted by Willie — 26 May 2010 at 3:16pm - Comments

We're out here in the middle of the Mediterranean. But at the moment, the bluefin tuna don't seem to be here.

The fishing boats are here. The tugs and support vessels are here. The French navy ships which are monitoring/protecting the fishery are here... but the fish aren't.

Perhaps it's just not warm enough yet. Perhaps they're looking in the wrong places. Perhaps the fish are late.

The worst possible scenario for everyone is that the fish have gone.

Rainbow Warrior sails the Med to help bluefin tuna's holiday romance

Posted by Willie — 21 May 2010 at 11:18am - Comments

An ex-bluefin tuna found during the Rainbow Warrior's previous visit to the Mediterranean in 2007 © Greenpeace/Care

Imagine you are an Atlantic bluefin tuna. You've been out at sea most of the year in cooler waters, feeding away and generally getting on with being a big ol' fish at the top of your food chain. You have not a care in the world, save the occasional orca or shark scare.

Then spring is sprung, and the urge takes you. Forces you don't really understand compel you to head back to warmer waters, and a certain key place, sacred to you bluefin. The bluefin equivalent of a romantic dinner and some subdued lighting is a sheltered warm sea, and conditions have to be perfect, or it ain't happening. But even that's not enough. Because of the, er, messy, way most fish reproduce, they congregate together, and only release sperm and eggs when the time and the temperature is right: 23 degrees Celsius. It's the perfect temperature for a bluefin love-in.

If tuna is too cheap, then stocks won't last

Posted by Willie — 29 April 2010 at 11:10am - Comments

Brussels Expo: every sort of seafood imaginable - except bluefin

I'm in Brussels, at the annual European Seafood Exposition. In the shadow of the improbably-shaped Atomium, thousands of people gather to buy and sell seafood. Five vast halls in an impossibly imposing building, crammed for three days with every sort of seafood you can imagine, as well as quite a few you hadn't yet dreamt up. The scale of it takes your breath away. This is the world's largest seafood fair, and quite literally it's the place the big-money deals are done to trade away our ocean life.

Is a small step for sushi a great leap for tuna-kind?

Posted by Willie — 14 April 2010 at 9:33pm - Comments

For many people it seems that 'tuna' is synonymous with 'sushi'. And there's certainly no doubt that the demand for high quality tuna to feed the fashionable sushi restaurant demand has had a devastating impact on some tuna populations. None more so than bluefin tuna.

Both the Atlantic and Southern bluefin species are in dire trouble, trouble caused by overfishing, to satisfy a demand for the fatty red belly meat in expensive sushi, sold as 'toro'. It's a demand that has led to a fishing frenzy, in places like the Mediterranean , over the past few decades. It's a frenzy that has trampled over artisanal fishing methods and harvested bluefin tuna with little or no regard to the scientific advice, or the law. They are fisheries that have been so spectacularly mismanaged, it's not even laughable.

What’s fishy about Whiskas catfood?

Posted by Willie — 12 April 2010 at 7:41pm - Comments

Today, in my inbox, was a letter from Whiskas parent group, Mars, gleefully telling us Greenpeace folk how committed they were to sustainability, saving the oceans, and other such buzzwords. The tone of the letter suggests a smug grin that would make the Cheshire Cat jealous. It goes on to tell us how they are, like, so committed, that they will be working with the Marine Stewardship Council and by the end of 2010 the MSC logo will be adorning fishy-flavoured packs of Whiskas and Sheba catfood.

CITES: championing extinction?

Posted by Willie — 29 March 2010 at 5:11pm - Comments

I've tried several times to write a 'wrap-up' blog for this year's CITES meeting. But usually I end up just banging my head against the keyboard in despair.

This CITES meeting was a turning point – the governments in the room decided that they weren't there to restrict trade to protect species, but rather there to protect trade as best they could. Nowhere was that more evident than the marine proposals.

Sharks were shafted, corals crushed, and bluefin obliterated, as the assembled governments played politics, and wrung their hands earnestly over the adverse economic effects of actually protecting any of these endangered species. Conveniently ignoring the fact that it's their inability to restrain trade which endangered them in the first place...

CITES - reality bites. Or rather, reality sucks

Posted by Willie — 19 March 2010 at 1:55pm - Comments

A Steller's sea cow skeleton - first spotted by Europeans in 1741, they were driven to extinction within 30 years © CC Funkmonk

International co-operation is vital if we want to protect the plants and (particularly) animals that we share the planet with. They don't all have a very quantifiable value, and often those most at risk live in countries in the developing world where it is hard to balance the growing needs of the population with effective conservation measures. It's also, of course, rather rich to be lectured by the developed West/North on how to look after your flora and fauna when we have been so remiss ourselves.

Governments fail bluefin in Doha

Posted by Willie — 18 March 2010 at 3:13pm - Comments

The breaking news today is that governments at the CITES meeting at Doha have voted AGAINST a trade ban on Atlantic bluefin.

Words cannot express how frustrating this is. The science and scientific backing is incontrovertible. The public will and pressure is immense. The species could be  commercially extinct within just a few years.

Fishy focus at CITES meeting in Doha

Posted by Willie — 17 March 2010 at 9:44am - Comments

The CITES meeting is now well underway in Doha, Qatar. Greenpeace is there, as are many other NGOs, and it’s clear that there is a very fishy focus for this meeting. As well as proposals to protect sharks and corals, Atlantic bluefin is the species on everyone’s mind. For a meeting concerned with the international trade in endangered species, it’s amazing how much of it could boil down to simple horse-trading.

This meeting, of course, is the chance to get an international trade ban on Atlantic bluefin, a measure that should protect the species from imminent commercial extinction.

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