By John Ensor •
Published: 29 Sep 2023 • 18:42
Stock image of Bluefin Tuna.
A recent development on the Spanish coast has led to concerns over the delicate balance of the sea’s ecosystem.
Both the Association of Naturalists of the Southeast (ANSE) and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) have raised alarms over the mysterious deaths of bluefin tuna on the Murcian coast, according to Onda Cero.
In September, ANSE’s sailboat Else discovered seven bluefin tuna, each weighing between 150 and 200 kg, near San Pedro del Pinatar, Murcia. This incident, coupled with numerous social media reports, has sparked concern among locals and environmentalists.
Both organisations have urgently contacted the General Secretariat of Fisheries and the Department of Water, Agriculture, Livestock, and Fisheries in Murcia. They are demanding an investigation into these unexplained mortality events and seeking accountability from those responsible.
There have been instances of individuals cutting up the washed-up carcasses for consumption. This practice poses significant health risks and has been strongly discouraged by the authorities.
It’s essential to note that the Eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean bluefin tuna were severely overexploited in the early 2000s. However, a recovery plan initiated in 2007 by the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna (ICCAT) has led to a significant rebound. The current maximum catch quota is the highest in recorded history.
The bluefin tuna fishery operates under a multi-annual management plan by ICCAT. This plan mandates a strict control and monitoring regime for all operations involving purse seine vessels (surrounding wall of netting) and fattening farms.
‘ICCAT establishes that all transfers of tuna from purse seine vessels to cages, all caging, releases from breeding cages and transfers between cages must always be carried out in the presence of an observer accredited by the Commission and that the withdrawals of all Individuals must be recorded in an electronic bluefin tuna catch document (referred to as eBCD).’
Despite these controls, the frequent appearances of bluefin tuna carcasses are concerning. It indicates that some operators might be bypassing these obligations to avoid losing fishing opportunities.
Town councils are bearing the cost of removing carcasses from the beaches through authorised managers. The organisations are emphasising the need for more social and environmental fishing, as many artisanal fishermen are left with insufficient or no quotas.
Both the Common Fisheries Policy and the newly approved Law on Sustainable Fishing and Fisheries Research advocate for the distribution of fishing rights to encourage more sustainable practices. However, the implementation of these principles has been met with some reluctance in the industry.
The unexplained deaths of bluefin tuna on the Murcian coast have raised serious concerns. The call for an investigation and the demand for sustainable fishing practices underscore the need to protect both human and marine life.
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Originally from Doncaster, Yorkshire, John now lives in Galicia, Northern Spain with his wife Nina.
He is passionate about news, music, cycling and animals.
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