In Mediterranean Illegal Planes Hunt Bluefin Tuna

Italian fishing boats are illegally using spotter aircraft to locate spawning schools of giant bluefin tuna, which are being heavily over-fished in the Mediterranean. The conservation groups World Wildlife Fund and Greenpeace have identified at least two aircraft being used to search for the bluefin, a practice that has been banned by the European Union.

The planes, operating between the islands of Malta and Lampedusa, are helping direct a fleet of 28 boats pursuing the fish, which are highly sought-after in Japan and elsewhere for toro sushi. The use of spotter planes has been banned because it vastly increases the bluefin catch, as the aircraft see schools from miles away and direct high-speed boats to encircle the tuna with nets. For the past decade, fleets from France, Italy, Spain, and other countries have been heavily fishing bluefin in the Mediterranean, one of the tuna’s two spawning grounds. The international quota for the bluefin fishery is 29,500 tons, but fleets have illegally been catching two to three times that amount. Conservation groups have called for a moratorium on bluefin fishing in the Mediterranean to prevent collapse of the stock.