(re-printed with kind permission of Greenpeace)
Greek philosopher Aristotle stated over 2000 years ago, that the migration of bluefin tuna in the Mediterranean was one of the most stable industries in the Roman Empire. This fishery, one of the most profitable in the world, is now threatened by industrial practices and lack of protection.
In 1999, Greenpeace published a report highlighting the depletion of the bluefin tuna population in the Mediterranean Sea. Adult bluefin tuna - the spawning stock - had decreased 80 percent over the previous 20 years.
Every year, far too many juvenile tuna were being caught, and pirate fleets were depleting the stock. Clearly, drastic measures were needed to restore the bluefin tuna population.
Sadly, since then, not only has the overfishing worsened, but a new industrial activity targeting tuna is posing an added threat to the survival of tuna in the Mediterranean. This is the capture, transport and fattening of tuna in cages all along the Mediterranean coast known as “tuna ranching”. Tugboats sweep the whole region in search of tuna, assisted by a flotilla of aircraft and helicopters able to find schools of tuna, despite their dwindling numbers.
Tuna ranching is a highly profitable activity directed at the Japanese market. Instead of reducing fishing to help tuna recover in the Mediterranean, fast profits have brought more money into the fishery: this means new and bigger fishing boats, storage plants, and even new airports to export the tuna. Governments have greatly contributed to boost this expansion: European Union subsidies, as high as US$34 million since 1997, coupled with big investments from Japan and Australia, have encouraged even greater catches.
The practice has resulted in an increase in the catch of juvenile tuna. No one knows the actual amount of bluefin tuna caught in the Mediterranean Sea, but it is clearly higher than the total allowable catch .
The huge quantity of fish needed to feed farmed tuna is also a problem. Up to 20 kgs of bait, made from fish, is used to produce just one kilogram of tuna. An estimated 225,000 tonnes of bait are thrown every year to the Mediterranean Sea, most coming from West Africa, the North Atlantic and America.
A recent report has highlighted the risk of introducing diseases to local fish species from the fish bait, as has previously occurred in tuna fattening operations in Australia.
Watch The Truth about Tuna HERE