Massive Unreported Trade of Endangered Bluefin Tuna Exposed
A new study commissioned by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) uncovers that between 2000 and 2010, the equivalent of 18,704 tons of live bluefin tuna were traded via Panama without being reported to the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT)—the international body managing the fishery.
Besides Panama, Mediterranean countries including Spain, Italy, Morocco, Tunisia and Turkey were involved, as well as Japan.
WWF calls on ICCAT and the concerned countries to urgently investigate further.
“This is the first ever study on this issue and it probably shows only the tip of the iceberg. We finally managed to get the proof of a situation that has been acknowledged for many years even by ICCAT itself”, said Dr. Sergi Tudela, head of WWF Mediterranean Fisheries Program.
Based on official trade and customs databases, it has been revealed that over a decade as much as 14,327 tons of processed Atlantic bluefin was traded via Panama. This volume of trade corresponds to an estimated weight of 18,704 tonnes of live fish.
Bluefin tuna has been exported to Panama from Mediterranean countries including Spain, Italy, Morocco, Tunisia, Turkey and Panama, in turn, re-exported to Japan as much as 13,730 tons of processed bluefin.
The trade detected peaked in 2003 and 2004, with 3000-4000 tons per year, but was still on-going at a lesser extent as late as in 2010.
“According to available records, not a single shipment identified by the report was ever reported to ICCAT,” added Tudela. “If confirmed, it would fully qualify as illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing according to the United Nations’ FAO standards and would equal environmental crime.”
All involved countries mentioned in the study were ICCAT Contracting Parties at the time the unreported trade operations were detected. According to ICCAT rules in force during all the study period, any international trade of Atlantic bluefin tuna had to be duly reported, to enable cross-checking with catch quotas.
The unreported trade of bluefin tuna through Panama, not even recorded in Panama customs, could have happened without the fish having been physically shipped to Panama. Simply, Panamanian-flagged transport vessels and the involvement of intermediary Panama-based companies could have mediated between producer countries and the final market in Japan.
According to ICCAT, IUU activities in the bluefin tuna fishery peaked in 2007 with an estimated catch at 61,000 tons, worth more than twice the legal quotas. There is consensus that recent catches have significantly reduced, but strong doubts still exist as to the real amount of fish being caught.
WWF calls on ICCAT, the countries identified in the study and the European Union, to urgently launch a serious investigation that would allow to either ruling out or endorsing the suspicions of IUU activities pinpointed by the study.
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By D. André Green II
One of nature's epic events is underway: Monarch butterflies' fall migration. Departing from all across the United States and Canada, the butterflies travel up to 2,500 miles to cluster at the same locations in Mexico or along the Pacific Coast where their great-grandparents spent the previous winter.
Millions of People Care About Monarchs<p>I will never forget the sights and sounds the first time I visited monarchs' overwintering sites in Mexico. Our guide pointed in the distance to what looked like hanging branches covered with dead leaves. But then I saw the leaves flash orange every so often, revealing what were actually thousands of tightly packed butterflies. The monarchs made their most striking sounds in the Sun, when they burst from the trees in massive fluttering plumes or landed on the ground in the tussle of mating.</p><p>Decades of educational outreach by teachers, researchers and hobbyists has cultivated a generation of monarch admirers who want to help preserve this phenomenon. This global network has helped restore not only monarchs' summer breeding habitat by planting milkweed, but also general pollinator habitat by planting nectaring flowers across North America.</p><p>Scientists have calculated that restoring the monarch population to a stable level of about 120 million butterflies will require <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/icad.12198" target="_blank">planting 1.6 billion new milkweed stems</a>. And they need them fast. This is too large a target to achieve through grassroots efforts alone. A <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/CCAA.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">new plan</a>, announced in the spring of 2020, is designed to help fill the gap.</p>
Pros and Cons of Regulation<p>The top-down strategy for saving monarchs gained energy in 2014, when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service <a href="https://www.fws.gov/southeast/pdf/petition/monarch.pdf" target="_blank">proposed</a> listing them as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. A decision is expected in December 2020.</p><p>Listing a species as endangered or threatened <a href="https://www.fws.gov/endangered/esa-library/pdf/listing.pdf" target="_blank">triggers restrictions</a> on "taking" (hunting, collecting or killing), transporting or selling it, and on activities that negatively affect its habitat. Listing monarchs would impose restrictions on landowners in areas where monarchs are found, over vast swaths of land in the U.S.</p><p>In my opinion, this is not a reason to avoid a listing. However, a "threatened" listing might inadvertently threaten one of the best conservation tools that we have: public education.</p><p>It would severely restrict common practices, such as rearing monarchs in classrooms and back yards, as well as scientific research. Anyone who wants to take monarchs and milkweed for these purposes would have to apply for special permits. But these efforts have had a multigenerational educational impact, and they should be protected. Few public campaigns have been more successful at raising awareness of conservation issues.</p>
<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="91165203d4ec0efc30e4632a00fdf57d"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/KilPRvjbMrA?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
The Rescue Attempt<p>To preempt the need for this kind of regulation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service approved a <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/pdfs/Monarch%20CCAA-CCA%20Public%20Comment%20Documents/Monarch-Nationwide_CCAA-CCA_Draft.pdf" target="_blank">Nationwide Candidate Conservation Agreement for Monarch Butterflies</a>. Under this plan, "rights-of-way" landowners – energy and transportation companies and private owners – commit to restoring and creating millions of acres of pollinator habitat that have been decimated by land development and herbicide use in the past half-century.</p><p>The agreement was spearheaded by the <a href="http://rightofway.erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank">Rights-of-Way Habitat Working Group</a>, a collaboration between the University of Illinois Chicago's <a href="https://erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Energy Resources Center</a>, the Fish and Wildlife Service and over 40 organizations from the energy and transportation sectors. These sectors control "rights-of-way" corridors such as lands near power lines, oil pipelines, railroad tracks and interstates, all valuable to monarch habitat restoration.</p><p>Under the plan, partners voluntarily agree to commit a percentage of their land to host protected monarch habitat. In exchange, general operations on their land that might directly harm monarchs or destroy milkweed will not be subject to the enhanced regulation of the Endangered Species Act – protection that would last for 25 years if monarchs are listed as threatened. The agreement is expected to create up to 2.3 million acres of new protected habitat, which ideally would avoid the need for a "threatened" listing.</p>
A Model for Collaboration<p>This agreement could be one of the few specific interventions that is big enough to allow researchers to quantify its impact on the size of the monarch population. Even if the agreement produces only 20% of its 2.3 million acre goal, this would still yield nearly half a million acres of new protected habitat. This would provide a powerful test of the role of declining breeding and nectaring habitat compared to other challenges to monarchs, such as climate change or pollution.</p><p>Scientists hope that data from this agreement will be made publicly available, like projects in the <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/MCD.html" target="_blank">Monarch Conservation Database</a>, which has tracked smaller on-the-ground conservation efforts since 2014. With this information we can continue to develop powerful new models with better accuracy for determining how different habitat factors, such as the number of milkweed stems or nectaring flowers on a landscape scale, affect the monarch population.</p><p>North America's monarch butterfly migration is one of the most awe-inspiring feats in the natural world. If this rescue plan succeeds, it could become a model for bridging different interests to achieve a common conservation goal.</p>
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