Monday, November 8, 2010

Bluefin on the edge - inside the tuna black market

The Documentary
ICIJ teamed up with London-based tve
to produce a companion documentary on BBC World News.

From The Center for Public Integrity

Twelve days before regulators gather in Paris to decide the fate of the endangered Eastern
Atlantic bluefin tuna, a new documentary launching on BBC World News this weekend reveals a sorry saga of illegal over-fishing that has led to plummeting tuna stocks worldwide.

Co-produced by tve with the Washington-based
ICIJ (the International Consortium for Investigative Journalists), ‘Looting the Seas’ shows how a decade of fraud involving Mediterranean fisheries, European governments and foreign dealers has helped push Atlantic bluefin stocks to the brink – and how the rules put in place to conserve them still don’t work effectively.

Bluefin tuna sit near the top of the marine food chain. If tuna stocks collapse, it could affect the entire marine ecosystem. Spawning stocks of Eastern Atlantic bluefin – the kind caught in the Mediterranean – are widely estimated to have shrunk by around 75 percent in the last four decades. As the global appetite for sushi spreads beyond Japan, ‘Looting the Seas’ asks if it’s now too late to rescue one of Nature's most noble fish, prized by the Romans – and today often worth thousands of dollars each.

According to the UN, 25 percent of the world fisheries are fished out, while 50 percent are fished to their biological maximum. No fish today better exemplifies the dire state of the seas than the prized Eastern Atlantic bluefin tuna.

Prized for its fatty, red flesh, bluefin tuna is considered a delicacy among sushi lovers in Japan and worldwide.

The fishing and trade in bluefin is regulated by
ICCAT - the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas, with headquarters in Madrid. ICCAT’s international panel of scientists advise on sustainable fishing levels but, as ‘Looting the Seas’ reveals, they say that for years their recommendations have been ignored.

Fisheries consultant Roberto Mielgo told ICIJ reporter Kate Willson: ‘Cheating was part of the game and a business necessity in order to survive.’

After years of underreporting from ICCAT-registered vessels, and a lack of enforcement by member countries, the European Union has only recently begun to crack down on its fleets. But as the film reveals, there’s evidence some of the measures in place are still not working as they should.

How Overfishing, Fraud, and Negligence Plundered the Majestic Bluefin Tuna

OVERVIEW: The Black Market in Bluefin
How a decade of rampant fraud and lax oversight threatened tuna stocks and created a $4 billion black market.

PART I: A Mediterranean Feeding Frenzy
Mediterranean fleets engaged in massive overfishing while governments stood by.

PART II: Diving into the Tuna Ranching Industry
Sea “ranches” for fattening tuna became lucrative centers for “laundering” bluefin.

PART III: Bluefin, Inc.
With no questions asked, Japanese traders fed a ravenous demand for high-quality sushi.

Key Findings
Highlights of ICIJ’s seven-month investigation into the bluefin trade.

About this Project
ICIJ’s multinational team scoured public records and interviewed sources in ten countries.

Links :
  • AFP : Tuna black market worth billions of dollars
  • LifeOnLine (TVE) : to read more about ‘Looting the Seas’
  • BBC News : feature article by Life on the Edge series editor Steve Bradshaw
  • BBC : Bluefin tuna protection system 'full of holes'
  • YouTube : National Geographic, tuna matenza