The 2024 tuna fishing campaign promises to be full of fish but impacted by prices

The 2024 tuna fishing campaign promises to be full of fish but impacted by prices

Les thoniers sétois se sont élancés ce vendredi pour la campagne 2024. Midi Libre – NICOLAS ZARROUK

Les thoniers senneurs du quartier maritime de Sète se sont élancés cette semaine vers le large pour la campagne 2024 qui démarre officiellement ce 26 mai. Décryptage. 

Along the quays of Sète, it is teeming with tuna purse seiners. The crews take care of the final preparations, checking the operation of the winches, the engine, the condition of the nets, before setting out to sea for several days for their fishing of the year: the bluefin tuna. Fishing governed by a ministerial decree and controlled directly by ICCAT (The International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas), using satellite tags. The 17 vessels registered in the maritime district of Sète, at the same time as all the other French tuna boats, set off towards the open sea this week to reach the authorized fishing zones before Sunday 26 May, the date set by the State for the start of the 2024 campaign. Professionals will have until July 1 to achieve their annual tuna harvest quota in the Mediterranean. That is 5 365 tonnes for the 21 tuna seiners in the French Mediterranean (580 tonnes reserved for small businesses).

A stable fishing quota

A crucial season therefore for these fishermen, in particular for the 14 vessels which belong to Sathoan (organization of producers, sardines, tuna, anchovies) in Sète. The structure which develops sustainable fishing will thus manage a maximum volume of 4,088 tonnes of bluefin tuna this year, including 3,568 tonnes exclusively produced by purse seiners. Fishing carried out mainly in the Balearic Islands sector and to a lesser extent to Malta, intended for export via farms on the open sea for the Asian market. "The quota is stable compared to last year,indicates Bertrand Wendling, the director of Sathoan. The most notable for the 2024 campaign is the fall in prices. We were on prices of 10 € per kilo and there we arrive at 5 or 6 €. We returned to the level we had during Covid. It’is linked to the market, to the fact that there is already stock on the Asian market." As the French have no farms, it is the Spanish and the Maltese who will set the tone for the sale.

A campaign that brings together scientists  

Tuna boats which catch fish by seine, that is to say on the surface in open water, using immense sliding nets operated using small tenders, are not not worried about the resource which promises to be substantial. "The HCR method (Harvest control rules, Editor's note) < em>implemented in 2022 and validated by ICCAT, made it possible to make assessments of tuna abundance which integrate more parameters and therefore are more accurate, assures Bertrand Wendling. The NGOs had also pushed for ICCAT to move to these new models, thanks to which multi-annual quotas could be set for three years. The assessment is also checked every year to check for any anomalies." These analyzes therefore showed increased productivity of tuna in the Mediterranean, which would benefit from warming waters but on the other hand a possible change in migration routes and therefore fish aggregations.& nbsp;Very young tuna have been observed in the Bay of Biscay. "They couldn't have come from the Mediterranean breeding area so quickly. This suggests that a breeding area in the Atlantic may be reappearing. This would be a world first,” note Bertrand Wendling. Sathoan, which defends the sustainable management of species, is joining forces with Ifremer in Sète (Prompt program), in order to collect data on the subject during this 2024 fishing campaign.

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