ICCAT:Slight increase in bluefin tuna quotas for 2013 and 2014
By Anne Eckstein | Wednesday 21 November 2012
The 48 member states of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna (ICCAT) agreed, on 19 November, after a week of closed-door meetings in Agadir, Morocco, to raise fishing quotas for bluefin tuna to 13,400 tonnes for 2013 and 2014, in line with scientific advice. The European Commission and NGOs welcomed the decision, while regretting the lack of progress on protection of other species, particularly sharks.
Fishing quotas for bluefin tuna in the Atlantic and Mediterranean will increase from 12,900 tonnes to 13,400 tonnes per year for the next two years. The Commission is pleased: its negotiating mandate aimed for an increase to 13,500 tonnes based on progress in the state of the stock. These quotas, which were still 28,500 tonnes in 2008 and 22,000 tonnes in 2009, were reduced drastically in 2010 (12,900 for 2011 and 2012) under the threat of seeing bluefin tuna placed on the UN list of endangered species. The goal is to achieve stock recovery by 2022.
In practice, explains the European Commission, this means that, of these 13,400 tonnes, the quota for Western Atlantic bluefin tuna is maintained at 1,750 tonnes for 2013. This decision is matched with launch of a process to review the recovery plan for this stock. Quotas for blue and white marlins were set at 1,985 tonnes and 355 tonnes, respectively, of which the 450 tonnes allocated to the EU will help accommodate the needs of European fishermen concerned, notes the Commission.
Little if any progress was made on protecting sharks, however. The European Union’s proposal to limit catches of shortfin mako sharks to current levels, as recommended in scientific advice, and its proposal to ban fishing for porbeagle (already tabled in 2011) were rejected. Its proposal to improve compliance with existing shark measures was adopted, however. This species is among those proposed for inclusion in the CITES (Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species) list, to be decided at a CITES meeting, in March 2013. The European Commission notes in this connection that it supports launch of the procedure to amend the ICCAT convention so as to better define its role with regard to protection of sharks.
Substantial progress needs to be made under ICCAT monitoring and control mechanisms through implementation of the ICCAT regional observers’ programme for bigeye and yellowfin tuna (ROP-TROP), the transition to the electronic bluefin tuna catch documentation programme, set to start with the next bluefin tuna season (16 May 2013), and the implementation of new catch documentation measures for other tuna species.
Environmental NGOs are pleased with the decision on bluefin tuna but regret that no progress was made on sharks. “We are satisfied because after an initial positive signal on bluefin tuna it was very important to respect the recommendations of scientists and to continue the management effort for this fishery,” commented Susan Sainz-Trapaga of the WWF. She added that the stock would be evaluated again in 2014.
Maria-José Cornax of Oceana welcomes the “parties’ determination to keep to the path of rebuilding stocks of bluefin tuna”. She regrets the absence of protection measures for sharks, “ICCAT’s forgotten species”. “ICCAT is about much more than bluefin tuna. It must remove its blinders and look beyond this one species to the many other stocks for which it is responsible,” a view shared by the Pew Environment Group.
The Commission and NGOs welcomed the decision, while regretting the lack of progress on protection of other species, particularly sharks