Gap between bluefin tuna quotas and recorded sales, 2004-2010. Current quotas set limits on the amount of tuna that can be caught legally. However, due to illegal fishing, the percentage of unreported and illegal catch has been rising in recent years, threatening the health of the Atlantic bluefin population. pewenvironment.org

October 18, 2011 (AFP) – More than twice as many tonnes of Atlantic bluefin tuna were sold last year compared with official catch records for this threatened species, according to a report released on Tuesday.

This "bluefin gap" occurred despite enhanced reporting and enforcement measures introduced in 2008 by the 48-member International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT), which sets annual quotas by country, it said.

Trade figures showed that real catches of bluefin in 2009 and 2010 totalled more than 70,500 tonnes, twice ICCAT's tally for those two years, according to the report compiled by Washington-based Pew Environment Group.

"The current paper-based catch documentation system is plagued with fraud, misinformation and delays in reporting," said Roberto Mielgo, a former industry insider and author of the report. "Much more needs to be done."

Before 2010, ICCAT systematically set fishing quotas substantially higher than the recommendations of its own scientific committee, which had warned repeatedly that stocks were in danger of crashing.

In 2010, the target quota - 12,900 tonnes for fish caught in the Mediterranean and Northeastern Atlantic - fell for the first time within the panel's recommended range.

But the new report implies the industry has circumvented the catch limits and tougher compliance measures. […]

The Pew study says that reported catch for bluefin tuna from 1998 to 2010 was 395,554 tonnes.

By comparison, market figures for this period show 491,265 tonnes, leaving leaving a gap of nearly 100,000 tonnes worth about $US2 billion euros ($1.98 billion) at wholesale prices.

These figures do not include what experts say is a sizeable black market in bluefin, along with fish that has been mislabelled as another species. […]

Far more bluefin sold than reported caught

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