The future of the bigeye tuna, in the heart of the concerns of the fishing world

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PARIS | What to do to combat the overfishing of bigeye tuna? The question will be as of Monday in the centre of the discussions of the international Commission for the conservation of Atlantic tunas (ICCAT), which was taken in 2007 drastic measures to save the bluefin tuna.

At the beginning of October, the scientific committee of ICCAT drew up a balance sheet-pessimistic: the bigeye tuna, popular in cans, as sashimi, is being overfished. If current levels of fishing continue, the probability that the stock is replenished by 2033 is almost zero to 1%.

“The species is in the red,” says Daniel Gaertner, specialist of tropical tunas to the IRD, who participates in the assessment of fish stocks to ICCAT.

The bigeye tuna (Thunnus obesus), also known as big-eye, lives in the Atlantic, the Pacific and the indian Ocean, but not in the Mediterranean.

It operates in deeper waters than other species of tropical tunas, of which the best known is the yellowfin tuna and can reach 180 kilograms.

In 2015, ICCAT had already taken a series of measures: a total quota of annual fishing of 65 000 tons for seven major fishing countries and a moratorium in certain areas and at certain times of the year for the use of PFDS, rafts, floating used to attract the fish before you take them in nets, who is accused of trapping of juvenile bigeye.

But the other countries are not subject to quotas, which has increased the catch of 80 000 tonnes in 2017 and the moratorium proved to be ineffective.

Result, the bigeye tuna is not able to replenish its stocks.

How to fix it? “It is necessary to reduce catches, and drastically”, pleads Paulus Tak, the american NGO Pew.

Pew and WWF call for a limitation of the catch of 50 000 tons, which would offer the species a 70% chance of recovery by 2028.

The bluefin tuna monitored

The european Union, which participates at the 21st extraordinary meeting of ICCAT will be held in Dubrovnik, Croatia, from 12 to 19 November, has made a proposal in this sense.

The EU, the biggest fisherman of bigeye tuna, behind Japan, calls for submission of stakeholders fishing more than 500 tons per year quota until 2023, without giving a global figure.

The EU also proposes to reduce the number of FADS per vessel, and the strengthening of controls on the ships.

For Adam Baske of IPNLF, an association that supports the tuna fishery to the line and durable, a decline of quotas should be accompanied d’a share of the resource access to small-scale operators and developing countries”.

Some communities in the Azores, Madeira, Brazil, or Senegal, are very dependent on the bigeye tuna, ” he says.

The fifty member countries, scientists, NGOS and representatives of the fisheries sector will also have an interest in the fate of the blue marlin of the Atlantic or even to the situation of the bluefin tuna of eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean sea, which has close to disaster.

In 2007, the prospect of seeing one of the three species of bluefin tuna (Thunnus thynnus) being added to the UN list of endangered species had forced ICCAT to establish a quota of fishing and stricter control measures over 15 years in the East-Atlantic and in the Mediterranean.

Since then, the stock is replenished. But increases in the quotas in 2014 and 2017 arouse the fear of defenders of the environment. In 2020, they are expected to reach 36,000 tons.

Another source of concern, illegal fishing. Europol has dismantled in October, a network between Spain, France, Malta and Italy, and recorded an annual volume of 2,500 metric tons of bluefin tuna from illegal, while its fishing is strictly regulated and controlled.

“It is absolutely necessary not to relax controls,” insists Tristan Rouyer, a researcher at Ifremer.

While the fishing period is currently limited, the EU proposes to allow all year round except for the largest vessels, tuna seiners.

As for the sharks, Sonja Fordham of the NGOS Shark Advocates International hopes that they will not be overlooked Iccat. “Historically, they do not represent a priority,” she says.