Illegal and Unreported Fishing of Bluefin Tuna


Mediterranean Driftnets: A History of (In)Action

Illegal fishing is part of what is referred to as illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU). This is one of the biggest challenges facing the Mediterranean bluefin tuna fishery today. The problem in the Mediterranean fishery is that the supply chain is complicated, and profits are high, making fraud and misreporting of catch common.

Illegal and unreported fishing not only hurts fishermen operating legally; it also affects the health of bluefin tuna populations and the direction of future management decisions. Scientists use information from catch records to set quotas for fishing seasons. But if catch records are inaccurate, the actual amount of fish killed each year will be incorrect and scientists will be unable to make accurate management recommendations, putting the species at further risk.

Illegal Fishing of Bluefin TunaLearn more about the science behind bluefin management.

One of the best-documented cases of illegal fishing in the Mediterranean today is the continued use of driftnets by Italian fishing vessels to catch bluefin and other fish. European Union officials in Brussels are working closely with the Italian government to stop the use of illegal driftnets. In November 2011, ICCAT governments lowered the minimum vessel length for its IUU list from 20 meters to 12 meters. This will help ensure that smaller vessels engaging in illegal activities are listed and are subject to increased monitoring and inspection.

Electronic Catch Documentation is Key

The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists' report, Looting the Seas, shed new light on these problems; the report revealed that between 1998 and 2007, the black market in Mediterranean bluefin tuna totaled US$4 billion. It also found that over 75 percent of purse seine catches in the Mediterranean are missing crucial information from their catch documents that would allow the fish to be tracked from capture to market. Currently, each tuna that is caught and sold must be accompanied by a paper BCD, or Bluefin Catch Document, that tracks the fish as it moves through the supply chain. Learn more about electronic catch documentation.

Media Contact: Dave Bard

Topics: Oceans, Environment

Project: Global Tuna Conservation