Oceana pleads for scientific advice to be heard to avoid the collapse of bluefin tuna

Oceana asks that the ICCAT Scientific Committee’s conclusions be heard. They warn that the bluefin tuna recovery plan does not meet this species conservation objectives.

Press Release Date: December 17, 2013

Location: Madrid


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Bluefin tuna continues to be in serious risk of collapse. Furthermore, a lack of reliable data on the 2007 catch has hindered the evaluation of the current fishery situation and evolution.

The total estimated catch for 2007 amounted to 61,000 tonnes, when the agreed quota for that year was 29,500 tonnes, almost four times over scientific recommendations.

Last week , the meeting of the Standing Committee on Research and Statistics (SCRS) took place at the headquarters of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT). During the meeting, updated evaluations of the bluefin tuna situation in the Atlantic and Mediterranean were conducted, two years after the recovery plan for this species entered into force. The most recent catch and fishing effort data were taken into account.

The plan, adopted in 2006, was initially established to halt the decline of the bluefin tuna population in the Mediterranean and the Eastern Atlantic. However, the Committee, after evaluating the plan’s potential effects and its application during the last two fishing seasons, concluded that mortality from current fishing continues to be too high (more than three times what is estimated to be sustainable) and the reproducing stock’s biomass is too low (around 36% below the necessary levels to guarantee sustainability) to be coherent with ICCAT’s objectives. This combination produces a high risk of collapse of the stocks, which would have serious consecuences for fisheries.

Xavier Pastor, Director of Oceana in Europe, stated: “It is significant that ICCAT considers that, unless catches are substantially reduced in the near future, there will probably be a further reduction of the stock and an increased risk of a collapse of the fishery.”

During the meeting, the underreporting of bluefin tuna by the agreement’s contracting parties was stressed, as well as the high percentage of illegal catches. According to ICCAT’s estimates, the total catch for 2007 amounted to 61,000 tonnes, when the agreed quota for that year was 29,500. In other words, in 2007, 51% of the tuna catches were illegal, and they were almost four times what scientists had recommended. The committee stressed that reducing catches of this species is the only way to achieve sustainable stock levels.

The bluefin tuna recovery plan will be reviewed at the next ICCAT plenary meeting in November.  “Scientists have made the situation clear; now it is necessary for the committee and the States involved in bluefin tuna exploitation to act in order to halt the decline and prevent a collapse. Oceana advises that drastic measures be adopted, such as closing the Mediterranean tune fishery from June to August, the bluefin tuna’s reproductive months”, concludes Xavier Pastor.