ICCAT’s last chance to prove capable of controlling fisheries

Oceana and MarViva Call for Moratorium on Bluefin Tuna and Improved Management for Sharks

Press Release Date: April 21, 2010

Location: Madrid


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

The International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) will meet in Recife, Brazil, next week to determine the future of commercially valuable bluefin tuna, whose populations have plummeted over recent decades. ICCAT is also expected to take up the issue of controlling shark catches and finning as agreed upon at the Second Joint Meeting of Tuna Regional Fisheries Management Organizations (RFMOs) earlier this year.

ICCAT contracting parties are under close watch by many countries as a separate proposal was submitted last month to ban international trade of bluefin tuna under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).


Driven to the verge of collapse by the greed of the international market and decades of mismanagement and illegal fishing, Atlantic bluefin tuna populations are nearing the point of commercial extinction. Oceana and MarViva call on ICCAT to immediately close the North Atlantic bluefin tuna fishery, the only measure that can ensure the survival of this species.

Today’s bluefin tuna situation resembles the North Atlantic cod collapse of the early nineties, resulting from overfishing and managers turning a blind eye to the signs of alarm. Doctor Daniel Pauly, a world-renown fisheries expert and Oceana Board Member, has called on ICCAT Contracting Parties to not repeat the mistakes of the past: “The bluefin tuna situation is like a time machine that would transport us back to the year before the collapse of Northern cod. Would we do it again? Will we do it again with bluefin tuna?”

Oceana and MarViva also strongly support the inclusion of this species on Appendix 1 of CITES to stop the main factor driving bluefin tuna to commercial extinction: international trade.


Sharks are caught by many ICCAT fleets, both as targeted and accidental catch, and are killed mainly for their valuable fins. Oceana calls on ICCAT to regulate sharks in its fisheries by requiring all sharks to be landed with their fins still naturally attached, prohibiting retention of endangered and particularly vulnerable or depleted species, and putting catch limits on all other shark species. By adopting these three measures, ICCAT parties would move inline with recent recommendations from the Second Joint Meeting of Tuna RFMOs.

ICCAT should put particular emphasis on prohibiting retention of porbeagle and thresher sharks, both of which are especially depleted and vulnerable, and in placing catch limits on blue sharks and shortfin makos, the two most commonly caught shark in ICCAT fisheries.


ICCAT is an inter-governmental fishery organization responsible for the conservation of tunas and tuna-like species in the Atlantic Ocean and its adjacent seas. The ICCAT annual meeting will take place with delegates from more than 48 countries fishing in the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea to discuss the future of large pelagic species such as endangered bluefin tuna, sharks and swordfish.

 For more information on declining populations and solutions, please see Oceana’s ICCAT position papers about bluefin tuna and sharks.