Oceana calls for immediate protection of large pelagic fish in the Atlantic and Mediterranean

Next week, during the ICCAT Commission meeting, the future of the large ocean predators will be negotiated.

Press Release Date: December 18, 2013

Location: Madrid


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Oceana urges the parties to close bluefin tuna fisheries in the Mediterranean, create permanent tuna reserves in key spawning areas,  introduce management measures for sharks and swordfish
and eliminate illegal fishing.

Beginning next Monday, the annual meeting of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) is taking place in Marrakech (Morocco). This regional fishing organization is in charge of managing fisheries to conserve the large pelagic fish caught in the Atlantic. Representatives of states involved in Atlantic and Mediterranean fisheries will negotiate the future of species like bluefin tuna, swordfish and pelagic sharks.

Xavier Pastor, Executive Director of Oceana in Europe declares: “As published by the scientists Ransom Myers and Boris Worm in the journal Nature, in 2003, 90% of big predators have disappeared from the world’s oceans. Overexploitation, illegal fishing and a lack of management measures will lead to a quick extinction. Pastor highlighted the bluefin tuna fishery’s serious risk of collapse in the East Atlantic and Mediterranean, as well as the responsibility of the parties to ICCAT: These negotiations are key for the survival of bluefin tuna. The countries belonging to ICCAT have to think beyond short term economic interests to preserve this species in the long term.”

Oceana, the international organization for the conservation of the oceans, urges the ICCAT contracting parties to adopt immediate management measures to protect and recover the big pelagic fish of the Atlantic and the Mediterranean.

Bluefin Tuna (Thunnus thynnus)

East Atlantic bluefin tuna is at risk of extinction. Scientists recommend an annual fishing limit of 15.000 t, but ICCAT contracting parties agreed to almost double this amount. According to calculations from the ICCAT Scientific Committee, total captures in 2007 were 61.000 t, when the agreed quota was only 29.500. This catch, half of which was illegal, was nearly four times that recommended by scientists.

Oceana calls for the total closure of the bluefin tuna fishery until the stock shows signs of recovery, a sustainable fishing management plan has been introduced and the overcapacity of the bluefin fleet is eliminated. Additionally, Oceana asks for the creation of marine reserves in spawning areas, such as the Balearic Islands.

Pelagic sharks

Pelagic sharks are vulnerable highly migratory fish, and many have been targeted in the Atlantic without management for decades. They are caught primarily for their valuable fins that are sold to Asia to make the popular shark fin soup. Pelagic sharks are now the targeted species of the Spanish and Portuguese surface longline fleets, among other non-EU fleets, like Taiwanese and Japanese. The main species taken are blue shark (Prionace glauca) and shortfin mako shark (Isurus oxyrinchus), but others like thresher sharks (Alopias spp.) and hammerhead sharks (Sphyrna spp.) are caught as well.

The majority of the sharks caught are threatened with extinction, according to the IUCN. Their depleted status is due to overfishing and “shark finning”, a practice mainly carried out by Asian fleets in which the high-value fins are sliced off the body which is then dumped back to sea.

Oceana is calling for the prohibition of targeted fisheries in the Atlantic for all pelagic shark species, except blue shark and shortfin mako. For these two species, catch limits must be established if the fisheries are to continue. Regarding the practice of shark finning, transshipment of fins and carcasses at sea, and their landing in separate harbours must be prohibited. Instead, a “fins attached” policy must be established, in which fins cannot be removed from the shark on board but instead must be left attached to the body until the first point of landing.

Swordfish (Xiphias gladius) in the Mediterranean

Mediterranean swordfish is overexploited and the stock is facing a prompt decline. Overfishing, lack of control and illegal driftnet fishing, together with a lack of management measures such as minimum landing size or catch limits, are the main causes.

Oceana calls for the start of management measures for Mediterranean swordfish fisheries to ensure sustainable exploitation and the application of effective control measures to finally eliminate illegal driftnets.

Oceana actively works in Europe for the protection of the bluefin tuna, sharks and the total elimination of the illegal use of drift nets.

Oceana Recommendations for the ICCAT Commission meeting

November 2008 



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