The one month season for industrial purse seine fishing for bluefin tuna begins on 15 May, amid concerns that illegal fishing may take place in Libyan waters.
Libya has stated that it will allow fishing in its waters, despite not having presented the obligatory fishing plans to the international organisation that manages and monitors tuna fishing, the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT). According to ICCAT rules this would make fishing activity by Libyan fleets illegal. The Libyan quota was 902 tonnes, out of a total of 12,900 tonnes.
In a joint communiqué WWF and Greenpeace have called for the entire fishing season to be suspended since the unrest in Libya will make it impossible to monitor and control the fishery and undermine the recovery plan in place for the stocks.
Libyan flagged vessels are currently in the harbours of Sète (France) and Malta. There are reports that several Libyan vessels have left Malta already, heading for Libyan waters. However, the French Agriculture Ministry has confirmed that the 10 French owned Libyan flagged purse seiners currently in Sète would not be authorised to catch bluefin tuna.
The controversial purse seine fishery for declining stocks of Atlantic bluefin tuna has been the focus of much criticism over the past years, both because of the high levels of illegal fishing for this prized fish and the high quotas allocated for the fragile stocks by the 48 states who are members of ICCAT.
Press release: WWF, Greenpeace call for suspension of bluefin fishery as tuna boats head to Libyan waters
Press release (Greens): Bluefin tuna fishery must be closed due to conflict in Libya
Ministry refutes WWF’s claim, lets Libyan vessels depart (FIS)
Thon rouge: grand risque de massacre en Libye (Le Point)
Thon rouge : les bateaux sous pavillon libyen ne sont pas autorisés à pêcher (Midi Libre)