Decision makers must follow scientific advice and not increase bluefin tuna quotas



Posted on 12 November 2012  | 
Agadir, Morocco: WWF calls on decision makers and the fishing industry to follow the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) Scientific Committee`s advice to ensure the bluefin tuna quota in the Eastern Atlantic and the Mediterranean remains the same and does not exceed 12,900 tonnes annually.

At the 18th Special Meeting of the Commission in Agadir, Morocco, ICCAT`s contracting parties, which include Japan, the US, Canada, China and the European Union will again determine management measures for a range of tunas and tuna-like species.

“ICCAT must keep recovery ambitions high for the fragile bluefin tuna. Big achievements are long in the making but in only an instant can be lost,” said Dr Sergi Tudela, Head of Fisheries, WWF-Mediterranean.

While recognizing the positive steps that have been made thanks to measures to improve Atlantic bluefin tuna management, contracting parties and the fishing industry must commit to building on this momentum and to follow scientific advice.
 
Current signs of a stock increase are cautiously encouraging and show that good management pays, even in the most hopeless among fisheries. It has been a long and hugely concerted effort from all stakeholders to reach this starting point and it’s in the interest of the Atlantic bluefin tuna fishery, ICCAT and the global fisheries governance system to make this a management success story after being the unfortunate icon for overfishing during the last decade. 



“ICCAT scientists are clear this year that the fishing quotas must not increase to enable Atlantic bluefin tuna to fully recover over the next decade. WWF calls on ICCAT contracting parties to stick to this recommendation,” said Tudela.

ICCAT first adopted a plan to reduce the fleet capacity for the Atlantic bluefin tuna in 2008, which was further refined in 2010. The current plan ends in 2013, when it is assumed to have phased out all fishing overcapacity in the Eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean.

However, a recent assessment shows the current plan is based on catch rates of fishing fleets that were strongly underestimated resulting in continued overcapacity.

“There are still too many boats for too few fish to be sustainably caught,” said Tudela.

“We call on ICCAT to extend the capacity reduction plan for the next three years using updated and accurate estimates of potential catch rates to ensure overcapacity is fully removed within the next three years,”

“We will also be watching ICCAT on measures decided to fight illegal, unregulated, unreported catches (IUU),”

The strong commitment by ICCAT to fight IUU has been one of the main pillars behind the initial  stock recovery.

Poor decision making on this matter risks taking this fishery back to the dark ages and destroying the achievements of years of productive collective work.

“Serious investigations on all potential infringements and adequate measures to tackle IUU catches are still crucial”, said Tudela.

Northern bluefin tuna, Spain
© Brian J. Skerry / National Geographic Stock / WWF Enlarge

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