Oceana requests ICCAT to sail beyond bluefin tuna and take care of swordfish and sharks

Press Release Date: November 10, 2015

Location: Madrid


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

OCEANA urges the Contracting Parties of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) – the organisation responsible for highly migratory species in the Atlantic and adjacent waters – to guarantee that all stocks under its concern are managed in a sustainable manner, specifically to combat overfishing. This is especially crucial for the overfished Mediterranean stock of swordfish and certain neglected sharks such as blue shark or shortfin mako.

Since 2006, ICCAT has implemented a recovery plan for the highly valued bluefin tuna, also a consequence of strong public pressure. Thanks to the enforcement of stringent management measures, bluefin tuna has started showing the first signs of recovery and its management plan is now regarded as a success story. However, ICCAT responsibility extends far beyond bluefin tuna. This year, the Commission should repeat their tuna success and guarantee the sustainable management of other stocks under severe threat.

“Of the stocks assessed under ICCAT, 59% are reported to be overfished and half of these stocks remain unmanaged or poorly managed,” explains Lasse Gustavsson, Executive Director of Oceana in Europe. “This year, ICCAT must demonstrate a real commitment to the sustainable management of highly migratory stocks within the fishery. With the meeting being held in Malta, the centre of the Mediterranean Sea, we encourage contracting parties to agree on a plan to recover Mediterranean swordfish, overexploited and neglected for far too long. On the Atlantic side, management measures are urgently needed for the commercially exploited blue shark and shortfin mako.”

Mediterranean swordfish:

According to scientists, the Mediterranean swordfish stock is overfished and has declined steeply since the 1980s, falling to levels that are currently 70% lower than what is considered sustainable. This species is currently caught without any limits by an oversized fleet of more than 15,800 vessels. The few management measures put in place to date are wholely inadequate to allow the stock to recover, particularly given that 75% of catches are juveniles that will never have the chance to reproduce. Oceana urges ICCAT to allow the overfished Mediterranean swordfish to be rebuilt to 1980s levels, by following a proposed swordfish recovery plan.


ICCAT is still failing to put in place concrete and effective management and conservation measures for sharks within ICCAT. Oceana calls upon ICCAT to:

  1. Set science-based catch limits both for both blue shark and shortfin mako, as advised by the scientific committee;
  2. Prohibit the retention, landing, and trade of porbeagles, which are highly threatened.
  3. Moreover, Oceana urges ICCAT to table a ‘fins-attached’ proposal to stop the harmful practice  of  cutting off shark fins and discarding the bodies at sea. Since 2012, EU vessels are obliged to land sharks with their fins naturally attached. Oceana calls for the shark finning ban to be extended to all ICCAT convention areas this year.

The 24th Regular Meeting of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) will be held on 10th-17th November and hosted in St. Julian (Malta) by the EU. Oceana, the largest international organisation focused solely on ocean conservation, will be attending the meeting as an observer and calling for the precautionary management of Atlantic and Mediterranean bluefin tuna, Mediterranean swordfish and neglected sharks.

Learn more: ICCAT

Lean more: Mediterranean swordfish