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| FROM THE editor |

Plummetting s t ocks

The ongoing debate over the best way to manage stocks of Atlantic bluefin tuna in the Mediterranean still seems to be a long way from reaching a resolution. Just before this issue of Geographical went to press, another European Fisheries Council meeting ended with no concrete proposals to reduce the level of exploitation, despite the fact that the population appears to be on the verge of complete collapse due to overfishing.

Indeed, current fishing practices seem almost to have been deliberately designed to be as unsustainable as possible, with purse-seiners catching the fish in large numbers as they congregate prior to spawning. These fish are then typically taken to ‘farms’, where they are fattened up before being slaughtered and sold.

Frustratingly, there is a perfectly serviceable model of sustainable exploitation already in place in the Mediterranean. Malta’s traditional long-line fishermen once caught tuna essentially as by-catch as they went after other fish, such as swordfish (page 36). As the value of tuna rose, they began to target the fish, but the small scale of the fleet guarantees that levels of exploitation will always be relatively low. (Fascinatingly, the fishermen themselves profess to loathe the fish – complaining that its flesh and blood have a repugnant smell that they find difficult to wash off after they’ve butchered a fish.)

But Japan’s insatiable demand for tuna, coupled with its apparent willingness to pay whatever it takes to get hold of it (a single tuna can sell for more than £100,000), guarantee that conflicts of interest are always going to get in the way of conservation efforts. For some of the smaller Mediterranean nations, income from tuna exports represents a significant part of their economy. And as it’s the big industrial operations that have all of the clout, the traditional fishermen are the ones who are feeling the strain, and it’s they who are joining the tuna on the downward slide towards extinction.

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WHO SAID THAT? ‘The edge of the unknown still haunts us. To discover is to shed the veil of things that men have never known before’ Find out on page 82

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SOME OF THIS MONTH’S CONTRIBUTORS

Geographical’s publisher, Graeme Gourlay, recently visited Peru to see what effect the new Interoceanic Highway is having on the nearby Tambopata National Park, deep in the Amazon jungle (page 56). ‘However much you’ve learned about the forest, the sheer scale of it still comes as a surprise,’ says Graeme.‘It’s just so big – this huge sea of green that seems to go on forever.’ And despite the road’s proximity to the park, he’s hopeful that efforts to minimise its impact on the wildlife will be successful. ‘At least they’re trying to engage with the problem’, says Graeme

Pakistani WWF worker Humaira Khan collaborated with four fellow members of the new Karakoram Research Institute to produce this month’s story about the effects of the recent landslide in the Hunza Valley in northern Pakistan (page 50). ‘About 15,000–20,000 people are still displaced,’ says Humaira, and ‘there’s a sense of disappointment with the government for not acting earlier’. But the locals are pragmatic about living in an area of high tectonic activity. ‘They take it in their stride,’ says Humaira. ‘No-one gives it a second thought’

On page 32, geographer and Coast presenter Nicholas Crane shares his enthusiasm for the new Societysupported Britain from the Air exhibition, currently on show in Bath. He was particularly struck by ‘the way aerial photography conveys a meaning that isn’t apparent from the ground’, such as in the image of seabirds on Bass Rock.‘From the shore, it’s a distant, sinister, dark lump,’ says Nick. ‘But from the air, it’s bright with life.’ And where in the UK would he like to tour by air? Northwest Scotland: ‘The most intricate and least accessible coast in Britain’

DECEMBER 2010

VOLUME 82 NO 12 _ _ _

PUBLISHER Graeme Gourlay

EDITOR Geordie Torr STAFF WRITER Olivia Edward

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6 www.geographical.co.uk DECEMBER 2010

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