By Wendy Williams
SPAIN and France have reeled in their bluefin tuna quotas in half the allotted time.
Further fishing of the endangered species has now been halted this season in line with new international rules.
It comes after concerns over dwindling stocks have made bluefin, or red, tuna a priority concern for many green groups.
Scientists estimate the Atlantic bluefin population – which can sell for up to €80,000 per fish – has dropped by around 80 per cent since the 1970s.
High-tech vessels using echo-sounders – as well as spotter planes – have made the catching of the fish in huge ‘purse seine’ nets too easy.
It means that the whole season’s quota has now been filled in just 10 days.
Environmentalists insist this is proof that Mediterranean fleets are well over capacity.
They argue that the global quota remains too high to allow the recovery of over-exploited fish stocks.
This year’s total global quota was set at 12,900 metric tonnes with 5,756 metric tonnes allocated to the European Union.
“It doesn’t make sense to allow them to fish in the spring anyway,” insists Mojacar-based fisherman John Beachcomber.
“This is when the tuna are coming into the Med to spawn and therefore killing them means less young are being born.
“It would be far more sensible to have a larger quota in the autumn when they are leaving again to go back to the Atlantic.”
Of the Mediterranean bluefin tuna some 90 percent is exported to Japan where it is a prized ingredient in high-grade sushi.
The rest is carefully doled out to hotels and restaurants throughout Spain, in particular at various famous eateries on the Costa de la Luz, including La Brena and El Campero.
Any boats now caught fishing for tuna can be scuttled for up to three years under new penalties.