On October 18, Spanish authorities with the help of EUROPOL, announced the arrest of nearly 80 men involved in an extensive operation of illegal bluefin tuna trading.
Authorities investigated and uncovered this large illegal network, which involved multiple fishing companies and distributors including one of Europe’s biggest seafood farming companies, the Spanish Ricardo Fuentes and Sons Group. The illegal catches were fished in Italy and Malta and entered the EU principally through Malta. Malta traded for twice the amount of illegal tuna than legal tuna for an annual profit of €12 5 million.
Although the European Union (EU) has taken measures to reduce these sorts of activities, this operation has uncovered the extent of illegal fishing in EU waters. According to Samantha Burgess who is the Head of Marine Policy at WWF European Policy Office, this level of illegal fishing and trading contradicts the leadership role of the EU on combatting the global fight against illegal fishing. She believes that member states need to take more responsibility when it comes to preventing illegal fishing and more needs to improve traceability, if Europe wants to achieve a legal seafood market and sustainable fisheries governance. Last year, illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing was the 6th most valuable crime globally.