Many of the tuna are caught in order to supply marine farms. | Efe


Regulated fishing of bluefin tuna in Balearic waters by trawlers from the islands limits the catch quota per boat to 59.4 tonnes, but Aniol Esteban of the Marilles Foundation says that these "artisan fishermen" are discriminated against in terms of the quotas. They need to have higher quotas, but far more also needs to be done to ensure compliance with regulations and to stamp out illegalities - not illegalities committed by Balearic boats but by those that belong to large fishing companies from the mainland and France.

One of these illegalities is the practice of returning dead tuna to the sea. Esteban explains that tuna are taken from Balearic waters in order to be fattened at marine farms. Some of the tuna die from the stress of the catch. "So that they don't count among the quotas of tuna that can be caught, they are thrown to the bottom of the sea." And this is illegal.

Esteban adds that these boats then catch smaller tuna so that they can get a greater financial return. "It is a great waste and has a huge economic impact on the Balearic trawler fleet." More than that, the dead tuna often end up in trawls. This harms catches and causes damage to fishing gear.

Joan Mercant, the Balearic government's director-general for fishing, suspects that these tuna remains come from mainland and French purse seiners. "But we don't know exactly what is happening. It is an issue that worries us. It is very serious and generates a great deal of waste. Artisan fishermen can lose an entire day's work due to these bad practices, which cause losses that can't be afforded. If the Balearic artisan boats had higher quotas, the offence would be less."

The regional ministry of agriculture, fisheries and food is urging its Spanish government counterpart "to take action and adopt the necessary measures to investigate what is happening". "We are insisting that there must be an end to this bleeding," says Mercant.