World looks to ICCAT to overcome more than four decades of failure to save tuna



Posted on 23 November 2010  | 
Fishermen's nets set out to corral Northern bluefin tuna (Thunnus thynnus) during the migration, Mediterranean Sea.
Fishermen's nets set out to corral Northern bluefin tuna (Thunnus thynnus) during the migration, Mediterranean Sea.
© Brian J. Skerry / National Geographic Stock / WWFEnlarge
As the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) meets in Paris, the world is watching to see whether it will be able to overcome a more than four decade record of notable failure protecting the bluefin tuna fisheries under its care.

A WWF analysis of ICCAT's record, updated for the Paris meeting, has found parallels between the collapse of the Western Atlantic bluefin tuna fishery under ICCAT's supervision in the 1990s and the current looming collapse of the remaining Eastern Atlantic (Mediterranean) bluefin tuna fishery.

These parallels include periods of reduced catch limits when frustration with ICCAT led to proposals for trade restrictions under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) - followed by a return to inflated catches and negligent management when the danger of international intervention had passed.

The WWF analysis clearly identifies the key issue as ICCAT's woeful adherence to its original charter of managing fisheries in accordance with scientific advice.

At last year's meeting, ICCAT’s own scientists established that Atlantic bluefin tuna fitted the criteria for the highest level of trade restrictions, as did a subsequent analysis of the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation - but a Monaco proposal to list bluefin tuna was voted down with no debate at the March 2010 meeting of parties to CITES in Doha, Qatar.

Lobbying by the principal bluefin market, Japan, played a key role in this decision, which was however followed by  the most significant players on both the catch and trade sides of the bluefin tuna equation – Japan, the EU, the U.S., Norway and Canada – also committing themselves to the adoption of sustainable, science-based fisheries management measures by ICCAT.

The Paris test will be whether ICCAT parties remain true to their “Doha Commitments” or agree only a marginal reduction in quotas and persist with a management regime full of loopholes.



Fishermen's nets set out to corral Northern bluefin tuna (Thunnus thynnus) during the migration, Mediterranean Sea.
Fishermen's nets set out to corral Northern bluefin tuna (Thunnus thynnus) during the migration, Mediterranean Sea.
© Brian J. Skerry / National Geographic Stock / WWF Enlarge

Subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required