Mar 072011
Yellowfin tuna, Thunnus albacares
Image via Wikipedia

How to pillage the oceans deliberately, and by accident

THERE are two ways to overfish the sea. One is to ignore scientific advice and plunder on regardless. The other is to accept the advice, and then discover it isn’t good enough.

For decades the Atlantic bluefin-tuna fishery has fallen into the former camp. The International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT), the group charged with managing this fishery, has been a disgrace. Every year, its member states have handed themselves quotas far in excess of those prescribed by the organisation’s scientific advice. Last year things were so bad that ICCAT’s chairman warned members that if they did not do better their power to manage the bluefin would end up being taken away from them. But they failed to restrain themselves, and the backlash has begun. Earlier this year Monaco proposed that the bluefin be listed in Appendix I of CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora). Such a listing would ban all international trade while the stock recovered.

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