ICCAT’s baffling contradiction: precaution on bluefin, abandonment of sharks

Oceana welcomes Eastern bluefin tuna decision, condemns refusal to manage sharks.

Press Release Date: November 19, 2012

Location: Madrid


Marta Madina | email: mmadina@oceana.org | tel.: Marta Madina

Agadir (Morocco) – As the annual ICCAT Meeting closes its doors today, Oceana, an official observer at the meeting, welcomes the steps taken for Eastern bluefin tuna management in 2013, but has grave concerns about the lack of new measures for threatened highly migratory species of sharks, and overall weak compliance with existing measures. Contracting Parties to ICCAT adopted a catch limit of 13 400 t for Eastern Bluefin tuna, with an additional allowance of 100 t for Algeria. Measures beyond 2013 will be determined on the basis of new science.

Maria José Cornax, Fisheries Campaign Manager for Oceana Europe, stated: “The outcomes of this meeting reflect a baffling, contradictory approach within ICCAT. We welcome the willingness of ICCAT CPCs to stay on the path towards bluefin tuna recovery in 2013, but we are extremely concerned about the future of ICCAT’s ‘forgotten species’.” Cornax added: “ICCAT is much more than bluefin tuna. ICCAT must remove its blinders and look beyond this one fish, to the many other stocks for which it is responsible.”

Seven proposals had been tabled that aimed to enhance the protection and management of threatened sharks in the ICCAT Convention area. Of these, only one vague measure was adopted, related to compliance with existing measures. Oceana has expressed its extreme disappointment, particularly with the failure to adopt EU, science-based proposals to protect endangered porbeagles and to cap fishing pressure on shortfin makos, which are threatened, but commercially fished without any limits or management.

Dr. Allison Perry, shark expert and Oceana Europe marine wildlife scientist, condemned the abandonment of sharks at this year’s meeting, “ICCAT has failed to assume their responsibility for managing shark fisheries in the Atlantic. Allowing stocks to become seriously depleted, and then prohibiting their capture does not qualify as responsible management. Sharks represent more than 15% of all reported catches in ICCAT, yet most sharks caught in ICCAT fisheries remain completely unmanaged.”

One of the measures that failed to be adopted was a United States proposal to strengthen the ICCAT prohibition on shark finning, by requiring all sharks to be landed with their fins still naturally attached. The ‘fins-attached’ approach is steadily gathering global support, with the next key milestone scheduled to occur this Thursday, when a similar proposal will be voted on by the European Parliament in Strasbourg.

Despite previously stated commitments to general compliance with ICCAT management measures, Oceana is extremely discouraged by the inaction of ICCAT CPCs in this area, with many noted cases of non-compliance. Without strict enforcement of ICCAT measures, management remains only on paper.


The International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) joins 47 Countries and the EU, in the fisheries management and protection of tunas and related species, including sharks, in the Atlantic Ocean and adjacent seas. The Commission meets each year to decide fishing quotas, management measures, and protection of vulnerable species caught in association with those fisheries.  

Learn more: ICCAT