Consumers warned over ‘illegal’ yellowfin as tuna numbers dive

June 09, 2019


We must stop buying yellowfin tuna caught in the Indian Ocean because it is overfished and on the brink of collapse, a report for BLUE has said.

Yellowfin is a major fish stock sold in nine out of ten major British retailers and in the rest of Europe, Asia and the United States, but shoppers are now being warned that it is being unsustainably caught with thousands of tons being caught illegally.

Catches are increasing despite the fact that a reduction of a quarter in the yellowfin catch needs to be agreed at a meeting of the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) this month, the report says.

Charles Clover, Executive Director of BLUE, said: “Consumers have been misled by misreporting, greenwash and so-called improvement projects into believing that yellowfin tuna from the Indian Ocean is sustainably caught. This report shows that it is not. It has been disgracefully overfished for some time and we now hear that some of what has been on sale may have been illegally caught by EU fleets.

“It is time for consumers to vote with their feet and boycott this product until the European Commission does its job, cuts catches and penalises any countries who have been breaking the rules.”

The report contains evidence that the Spanish-based EU fleet is involved in a “catching frenzy” which goes against EU regulations.

In the absence of decisive action “it will be up to government representatives, retailers, processors, NGOs and consumers to make clear urgently to the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission what responsible steps it should take to save the globally-important yellowfin stock from collapse,” the report warns.

Yellowfin tuna is most often sold in steaks or as sashimi as well as in some tinned products in the UK.

Professor Callum Roberts, University of York, said: “The Indian Ocean Tuna Commission has failed to deliver sustainable yellowfin tuna fisheries through a combination of greed and incompetence.  Scientific advice was watered down in decisions on reducing fishing effort, and then states failed to implement the cuts, instead actually increasing fishing effort.

“As bigger and more valuable bluefin and bigeye tunas have become overfished, yellowfin has become crucial to the industry’s continued prosperity. That prosperity will be short-lived unless the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission does its job properly and puts stock protection ahead of short-term profit.”


The report can be read here: A case study on the management of yellowfin tuna by the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission

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