INTERVIEW TRANSCRIPT - Pablo Xandri
Pablo Xandri is the Director
for the Conservation Program of the WWF Adena in Madrid, Spain.
Can you describe the state
of the red tuna population in the Mediterranean and the North Atlantic?
The first problem
we found is a lack of transparency in the data regarding these populations.
It's not easy to know the status. What we do know with some certainty
is based on data from 1998, which says that the population is down
to thirty percent of what it was thirty years ago in 1970. This
means that it has decreased by eighty percent. The most recent census,
from last year is still not public. It appears from the preliminary
data that the situation is worse. But the official figures are not
yet public and there is a lack of transparency in these figures.
Many people hope that
fish farming can alleviate the pressure on marine fish stocks. Do
you think the farms that cultivate red tuna are alleviating this
We also think
that it can be a solution to alleviate the problems of over-fishing,
but currently, they are not providing a real solution because they
are not growing tuna on the farms. The Tuna are being caught from
the wild and placed on the farms and being fattened on the farm.
They are still cutting into the wild population. It is not a closed
water farming cycle that is breeding and reproducing the tuna; rather
they are capturing them outside. The farms are increasing pressure
on the wild stocks. We have to investigate it more. The ideal would
be that the cycle is closed, but currently, that situation does
Some people say the farms
benefit coastal communities in the Mediterranean, while others say
only a few companies are benefited. What do you think?
The farms are
not benefiting traditional and artesian fishermen of the communities,
given that the tunas are taken from the wild for industrial purposes.
Many times they belong to the very same owners of the farms, and
in some cases, other foreign countries. It is true that it is benefiting
a certain segment of the coastal communities, but this part of the
coastal community does not consist of traditional fishermen.
Are the farms that cultivate
red tuna alleviating the pressure on the wild fish population?
they are doing is exactly the opposite. They are increasing the
pressure on the wild tuna stock given that these tunas are not created
on the farm. They are fattened up on the farms, but caught in the
wild and transported by large boats to the farms. Perhaps in 20
or 30 years, enough will be known about the biology of tuna so that
they can be bred, but currently the pressure on the wild stock is
Are the capture of anchovy,
mackerel, and sardine of the Mediterranean, which are chosen for
feeding to the cultivated tuna fish, not regulated?
There are many
problems that we have detected in the field. These problems, with
regard to reporting the capture of anchovy and sardines, do not
pass. We have seen that they do not pass into the market, so we
can't really know the impact that this is having. This is a big
problem. The Adriatic anchovy has collapsed as a population and
has contributed precisely to the tuna farms. This is a concrete
fact in the field. There must be a better evaluation of how this
is encroaching on these small feeding fish.
Are anchovy and sardine
important to the Mediterranean ecosystems?
are the foundation. Anchovy, sardine, and mackerel are the base
of the ecosystem in the Mediterranean. Given that they are food
for predators, not only of tuna, but also sharks, etc., they are
the foundation. When we are capturing tuna from the wild, which
has such a low stock, we are encroaching on the functioning of the
wild ecosystems whose effect it is very difficult to predict.
Some critics of the farms,
say that it's a waste of resource, they say that for each kilogram
of cultivated tuna, they need twenty pounds of food. What do you
With the current
technology and with the food they are given, this is a great example
of the impacts on wild populations. For every twenty mackerel, for
every twenty sardines, only one is used, which means there is a
loss of the remaining nineteen from the wild population. This is
a clear example of the impact on the ecosystems and on the populations,
since there is an incredible loss in the manner that they are doing
Some farmers believe that
the motive for reproducing tuna is to replenish them back into the
ocean. Others believe they can grow them for the market. What do
you think about the efforts to reproduce tuna?
It is interesting.
It should be studied. The technology involved in reproducing tuna
should come to fruition in the future. But currently what is being
shown is that the farming, which they are doing, is not correct.
The fish are not being released into the wild, they are simply being
captured, fattened and sold. What is being witnessed is the situation
of one of the species most threatened in our oceans, the red tuna
of the Mediterranean. If this is not further researched and if they
do not understand the biology of this species better, it is not
enough to fantasize that we are actually saving the species. In
fact, it's just the reverse; it is producing a very grave situation.
Why are cultivated fish
being fed fish from diverse locations? Is there a possibility of
What is missing
right now is regulation of this type of activity. They are not only
capturing red tuna populations from all over the Mediterranean,
they are also capturing tuna from France, Italy, and Spain. They
are bringing their food, these small feeding fish, sardine, mackerel,
and anchovy, from all over. This is causing disturbances in the
places where they are grown and where they are extracted in the
wild community. With the farms, it's like an intense production
that is being generated in that zone and has an impact on the local
environment. But at the same time, they are bringing populations
from outside that we have no idea how they will interact with the
this reason, WWF is asking for a moratorium to stop new installations
until they know more about all these impacts. Also until they can
say where farms should be located, and where they should not be
located. They are setting up farms without any control. They should
know about the evolutionary biology of the tuna so that this closed
cycle production would be a guarantee. We need to stop these new
installations, which until now, have not been controlled at all.
Can you provide any commentary
on the subsidies that the farmers are receiving and whether these
subsidies are causing excessive over-fishing?
is currently catalogued as fish farming, the creation of fish. When
in reality it's not the creating of fish, it's an open cycle, it's
a capture from the outside, it's grown, and then sold. Therefore
it's a fabrication that it's fish farming. The activity is a fabrication.
If they make a better ship, they will catch tuna, and they will
receive double financing. The financing will be for the capture
of fish, in the form of the ships, and for the installations of
the cages, etc. for the farming. In receiving public funds and funds
from Europe itself, we should be very rigorous in asking for an
environmental assessment of how these funds are being used for something
that really is not fish farming.
Do you think tuna farming
is an inappropriate use of public funds?
of tuna is a grand resource that can produce a lot of wealth. It
is also a public asset, a common asset, and because it is a public
asset, it must be protected. This means that under the current conditions,
the population is 20% of what it was 30 years ago, which is really
a grave situation. In five to ten years, the wild tuna population
can collapse; it will not be able to reproduce any more and cannot
be recovered. Now is the moment, as a public asset, that all methods
for saving will be put into place to preserve it. Solutions that
appear to be really good, like the moratorium should be placed on
installations, in reality are making the situation worse. As a public
recourse, we should be more demanding. For that reason, our organization
has really become involved to paralyze new exploitations until there
is a really effective plan for recovering the tuna population.
Is there anything else
you would like to comment on?
to the recuperation of red tuna in the Mediterranean, there is a
need to create a protected zone for the raising of this tuna, an
area where they cannot be fished. There must be a stronger demand
that there be a control regarding this form of fishing. It is having
a negative effect on the populations. All public money that comes
from the European Union and from the administrations will have to
be concretely evaluated in terms of the environmental effect that
the activities are having on public resources. One key question
is within the reports. They are changing; they are distorting the
reports that they are making on the capture of tuna. This is a fact,
which we have been able to prove.
in France, for example, have been blocked, because they are not
providing them; the fishermen are not giving them to the scientists.
Why? Because they have seen that there has been a terrible increase
in the capture of wild tuna for tuna farms. They are not reporting
accurately because the tuna farms are overexploiting the tuna. They
prefer not to give this data to the scientists. This is especially
worrisome since we are going to find ourselves without the data
to control the population. We believe we have to look at the way
reports are being given. We'd like to see a specific category within
the reports for the tuna that goes to the farms.