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November 11, 2011

It’s ICCAT time again!

Swordfishes (Xiphias gladius) in a truck in the harbour of Marsaxlokk, Malta. Oceana MarViva 2009 BFT. June 2009.


It’s ICCAT time again! This week an international team of Oceana experts headed to Turkey to seek protection for sharks and swordfish, both of which are overfished, at the 22nd Regular Meeting of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT).

Wondering why an organization that specifies conserving tuna is the place to be to fight for sharks and swordfish? There are actually over 30 species that are a concern to ICCAT, many are tuna species (such as the ever popular Atlantic Bluefin tuna), but others include blue marlin, sailfish, mackerels, swordfish and sharks.

So what’s the problem, and how are we proposing ICCAT fixes it?

On sharks: Highly migratory sharks are particularly vulnerable to overfishing, and the majority of species are already considered threatened in parts of the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea. Yet their capture in conjunction with ICCAT fisheries remains essentially unmanaged and unlimited, in all but a few cases.

  • Prohibit the retention of endangered or particularly vulnerable shark species, including porbeagle and silky sharks;
  • Establish science-based precautionary catch limits for blue and shortfin mako sharks;
  • Require reporting of catch data as a prerequisite for landing a particular shark species; and
  • Improve the current ICCAT finning measure by requiring that sharks be landed with their fins wholly or partially attached in a natural manner

On swordfish: The management of the overexploited Mediterranean swordfish has repeatedly been neglected, to the detriment of the conservation of this species.

  • A comprehensive management plan based on science that includes: catch limits, restricted access to only the surface longline fleet, minimum landing sizes, and additional measures to guarantee enforcement would preserve this species.