Bluefin tuna fishing and penning in the Mediterranean: needs urgent consideration.
The Biological Conservation Research Foundation, BICREF is concerned with the increasing fishing effort for Bluefin tuna in the Central and Southern Mediterranean Region. Indeed the number of purse-seiners in this region of the Mediterranean is increasing exponentially as may be appreciated by observing the number of purse-seining vessels in the Valletta Harbour (at least 30 such vessels close to the Fisheries Department) during the windy days of May and June this year. Each purse-seiner’s catch exceeds the annual (May to July) catch of all the Maltese Fishermen.
BICREF stresses the need for local authorities to discuss at international levels the lack of sustainability of the ongoing increase in Bluefin tuna fishing in the Mediterranean close to the Maltese Islands. It is also necessary to consider the impacts of tuna penning on this constant increase in fishing effort as has already been advocated by BICREF in previous years. It is hoped that as the tuna spotter planes were informed of their illegal actions and asked to depart from the Maltese Islands in June by local authorities, other irresponsible actions conducive to strain on sustainable fishing should be stopped.
Local fishermen’s decreased catches this year are already indicating the level to which the impact of drastically increasing fishing effort in the area is having. Increased fishing vessel numbers and their improved fishing technologies are affecting the effective quotas of fish caught with smaller boats and less efficient techniques. Are we going to hope of resolving the current fishing problems by increasing the Maltese’s fishing gear and effort or by demanding that sustainable fishing (that depends on conservation and responsible fishing conduct), is actually in order in all countries that fish in International waters? At a time when a revival and appreciation of artisinal fishing or smaller-scale fishing activities are being promoted world-wide, because of their consideration of the environmental and sustainable needs, large scale operations are being allowed to flourish. The Maltese Islands have a lot to contribute toward promoting respect for such smaller-scale and sustainable activities especially when dealing with increasingly vulnerable natural resources.
Hopefully these problems will also shed light on the increasing impact of opening a fishing area around the Maltese Islands for EU Mediterranean fishermen to use with out any detailed consideration and monitoring of how this area will be exploited and affected by the new fishing efforts. Funds to increase fishermen’s gear will not solve the problem if an area will be over-exploited.