Oceana says that ICCAT has failed. Thereby condemning the future of bluefin tuna

The ICCAT meeting resulted in a disastrous catch limit for bluefin tuna today that ignores scientific advice. Oceana, who called for a closure of the fishery, is dismayed with this decision that threatens the future of bluefin tuna to satisfy the fishing

Press Release Date: December 18, 2013

Location: Madrid


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Despite strong initial proposals, the debate on sharks also ended with very limited management measures.

Today the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) closes the most crucial meeting in the history of the organisation in Marrakech, Morocco. Joe Borg, the European Union Fisheries Commissioner, qualified the meeting as the last chance for the bluefin tuna fishery. For more than a week, the future of bluefin tuna and other pelagic species was negotiated among countries with interests in Atlantic fisheries. Fisheries management measures for the Eastern stock of bluefin tuna, overfished and facing serious risk of collapse, were discussed and debated throughout the week, but ended with a disastrous agreement.

During the meeting, ICCAT members had the possibility of saving bluefin tuna. Proposals for a Total Allowable Catch (TAC) of less than 15,000 tons, in line with scientific advice, were tabled by a group of delegations. However, after much debate, Parties agreed an unsustainable TAC of 22,000 t for 2009, satisfying the industry’s short term economic interests. Oceana, the international marine conservation organization, has called for the closure of this fishery until recovery of the stock is scientifically assessed.

Xavier Pastor, Executive Director for Oceana in Europe, declared:ICCAT’s credibility has been destroyed by the negotiating countries who opposed responsible management measures for bluefin tuna. Instead of preserving the bluefin tuna stock from collapse, they gave in to the fishing industry’s short-term economic interests. With this decision, we can only wait for the disappearance of bluefin tuna.

The ICCAT scientific advice for the Eastern stock of bluefin tuna calls for a maximum catch of 15,000 t per year. Nevertheless, ICCAT has adopted catch limits that are almost double this recommendation in the last few years. For 2007, real catches were estimated at around 61,000 t, three times higher than the allowed catch thanks to illegal fishing.

Shark fisheries were another highly debated topic during the ICCAT meeting. Management for only one species, the bigeye thresher, was agreed despite the introduction of stronger proposals and for various other species earlier in the week. Catch limits for blue sharks and shortfin mako sharks, and prohibited fisheries and landings for thresher sharks and hammerhead sharks were initially proposed by the European Union. Blue and shortfin mako are the sharks most caught in the Atlantic, part of a targeted fishery for their valuable fins which are exported to Asia for the elaboration of shark fin soup. Hammerheads and threshers are also caught in these fisheries, and are extremely vulnerable to depletion.

However, continued disagreement among the parties prohibited the agreement of the widespread measures that would have been an important step towards sustainable Atlantic shark fisheries. In the end, only a weak requirement was established to release any bigeye thresher sharks brought on board alive.

Oceana is carrying out a shark campaign, calling for stricter shark management measures. As part of this campaign, shark fisheries and landings were documented all around the world. As part of Oceana and Marviva’s bluefin tuna campaign, the fisheries for that species were documented throughout the Mediterranean in 2008 from aboard the vessel the MarViva Med.