Bluefin on the Brink

In a rare instance of farsighted fisheries management, the European Union has closed the Mediterranean bluefin fishing season early. It’s only a week before the season was scheduled to end, but by the middle of June the EU had already ordered a halt to all industrial bluefin fishing after what it called the repeated violations of purse seine vessels, which catch the vast majority of Mediterranean bluefin. See, for example, according to the EU fisheries commissioner, the “eight French purse seine trawlers that had spent up to 21 days fishing since the start of the season, but had ‘so far declared no catches.’”

The decision came shortly after “the environmental group, Oceana, documented the use of spotter planes, which are banned, being used to round up some of the last of a breeding population which scientists say is in danger of being wiped out,” as the Telegraph reports. Oceana and many other environmental organizations believe that current catch limits for bluefin far exceed the population’s capacity, and that the tuna shouldn’t be fished in June, its principal spawning month, regardless. (For more on Mediterranean bluefin, see Fen Montaigne’s comprehensive, moving reporting on the fishery in National Geographic last year.)

Since the EU announced that it was cutting off all types of fishing, the rhetoric coming from the fishing lobby has reached comic levels. Here’s the president of the tuna fishing union: “They’re killing families with guesses, we’re dealing with Bolsheviks, it’s worse than the 1940s.” Wait—Bolsheviks? Can’t we have more up-to-date demagoguery?