The Gibraltar Ornithological and Natural History Society has questioned why the Department for the Environment is increasing Gibraltar’s Atlantic Bluefin tuna quota from 13 tonnes to 15.5 tonnes.
GONHS said it had previously alerted the department to instances of locally caught tuna being advertised in Gibraltar’s restaurants, adding this indicated strongly that commercial fishing was taking place.
“As there is no recognised commercial tuna fishing in Gibraltar, increasing the quota for what should be a recreational sport is hard to explain,” GONHS said in a statement.
Given the number of portions that 15.5 tonnes yield, it would also be reasonable to investigate the possibility of exportation, GONHS said.
GONHS urged the department to reconsider its approach to the conservation of Atlantic Bluefin tuna, “…because consumer demand is precisely why this species is now endangered and may become inaccessible to future generations.”
GONHS flagged how Gibraltar’s quota had increased by 55% in two years, significantly higher than the increase agreed by the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas’ in the same period.
Gibraltar’s quota, it added, was “already proportionally much higher” than that of any other Mediterranean or eastern Atlantic jurisdiction.
“If the quota of 13 tonnes is reached quickly because there are too many anglers catching tuna, then GONHS believes that the number of anglers not performing ‘tag-and-release’ should be reduced in order to arrive at a more sustainable quota-to-angler balance.”
“Increasing the quota – which is a conservation measure – in response to the wishes of a large number of anglers cannot be justified,” it added.
The Department of the Environment also recently announced a temporary suspension to this year’s Tuna Open Season, from the 16th July to the 6th August 2017.
Its given rationale is that this will extend the season to the latter part of the summer, as catches have been high in the early part of the season, exceeding nine tonnes after four weeks.
GONHS said the department appears to be implementing the suspension in order to extend tuna fishing to the end of the summer, rather than as a conservation measure taken to protect a species that is classified as Endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
“Once a quota has been reached, tuna fishing within BGTW should cease,” GONHS said.