Oceana: EU could open bluefin Pandora’s box by calling for higher catches

As ICCAT meeting approaches, EU decides to leave open the possibility of a quota increase for bluefin tuna and to propose protection for threatened sharks.

Press Release Date: November 7, 2012

Location: Madrid


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

Today, the European Union has resumed negotiations on a common EU position for the next ICCAT meeting, which takes place next week in Agadir (Morocco). Scientists have called for a precautionary approach to Eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean bluefin tuna, which remains overexploited. The EU has agreed on the possibility of increasing the quota within scientific limits, up to 13500 tons, and it will also propose stringent measures for threatened shark species.

“We welcome the unprecedented rational and cautious approach taken by EU Member States, but we cannot help but fear the consequences of proposing any increase in the bluefin quota,” stated Maria José Cornax, Fisheries Campaign Manager of Oceana Europe. “To do so means opening a Pandora’s box, because it not only could fuel third countries´ calls for unsustainable quota increases, but it could also jeopardise EU proposals for shark conservation, which are often affected by bluefin political discussions.”

In relation to sharks, the EU has agreed to propose new measures for the management of threatened species: a ban on catching porbeagle sharks, and the establishment of a catch limit for the vulnerable shortfin mako shark, which is commercially fished but unmanaged. In addition, the EU will defend measures to ensure compliance with rules on shark fishing and data reporting.

Dr. Allison Perry, shark expert and Oceana Europe marine wildlife scientist, welcomed the EU’s leadership on shark management and conservation, and encouraged ICCAT CPCs to endorse the European shark proposals: “Real management of Atlantic porbeagles and shortfin makos is long overdue. We trust that the Contracting Parties to ICCAT will finally accept their responsibility for managing these two shark species, both of which are highly migratory, already threatened, and among the most vulnerable sharks in the Atlantic to being overfished.”

The International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) will convene next Monday for its annual meeting. The EU and 47 countries are Contracting Parties to ICCAT, the international body responsible for the conservation and management of tunas and related species, including sharks, in the Atlantic Ocean. Oceana will be participating in the ICCAT meeting as an observer, and calling for the adoption of the following measures:

  • Ensure the recovery of overexploited Eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean bluefin tuna, by maintaining current catch limits.
  • Manage vulnerable, commercially fished shortfin mako sharks in the Atlantic, by adopting precautionary catch limits.
  • Prohibit the capture of highly threatened porbeagle sharks.
  • Close the loopholes in the ICCAT ban on shark finning, by requiring sharks to be landed with their fins attached.
  • Reinforce compliance with fisheries management rules in the ICCAT Convention Area.