Oceana urges EU to make strong lead at ICCAT to ensure the future of endangered species

Tomorrow’s EU Council of Fisheries Ministers provides key opportunity to adopt a strong position on management measures for critically overexploited bluefin tuna, Mediterranean swordfish and sharks.

Press Release Date: October 25, 2010

Location: Madrid


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

In light of tomorrow’s EU Council of Fisheries Ministers meeting, Oceana strongly urges increased protection for endangered bluefin tuna, swordfish and sharks, and reminds the EU of its commitment to restore fish stocks to the Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY). The Ministers will be discussing the EU position for the upcoming meeting of the Contracting Parties to the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT).

ICCAT provides the EU with a unique opportunity to show there’s a real political will to restore depleted fish stocks,” states Xavier Pastor, Executive Director of Oceana in Europe. “Given the critical status of bluefin tuna, and the lack of management measures for Mediterranean swordfish and sharks, the situation can no longer be ignored by the EU, which has been the greatest beneficiary of their exploitation and is partly responsible for the current conditions.”

Bluefin tuna, Mediterranean swordfish, threatened thresher and hammerhead sharks are among those species exploited by EU fleet whose fate lies in the hands of ICCAT.

“While a lot of focus should be on the urgent need to recover endangered bluefin tuna, we cannot ignore the state of other overexploited ICCAT species. Without urgent action, Mediterranean swordfish will be well on its way to facing the same fate, added Xavier Pastor.

Oceana urges the EU to propose and advocate for the following measures for these species:

Bluefin tuna

Bluefin tuna stocks have been overexploited by decades of mismanagement and illegal fishing. Current industrial fleet overcapacity undermines the 2010 TAC (Total Allowable Catches). Additionally, the 2010 TAC doesn’t guarantee the recovery of the species by MSY within a reasonable time period.

Oceana urges the EU to promote:

  • a total closure of industrial fishing activity;
  • marine reserves in Mediterranean bluefin tuna spawning areas; and
  • the establishment of a TAC that fully ensures recovery of the species.

Mediterranean swordfish

Mediterranean swordfish, also an overexploited stock, is fished by Mediterranean countries without any controls or management measures. More than 8,000 vessels including illegal driftnets fleets are targeting this species and misreporting a substantial quantity of their catch.

Oceana urges the EU to propose a Mediterranean swordfish management plan at ICCAT that will ensure the recovery of the stock through the following measures:

  • the reduction of fleet overcapacity;
  • the establishment of a catch limits, minimum landing sizes amongst others; and
  • the introduction of specific measures tackling the illegal use of driftnets.


Sharks are caught in conjunction with many ICCAT fisheries and are targeted by surface longline fleets for their valuable fins. Most Atlantic pelagic sharks fisheries are carried out without management measures and consequently, many shark species are overexploited.

Oceana calls on the EU to protect theses species by promoting:

  • the prohibition of the on board retention of shark species classified as Endangered or Critically Endangered by the IUCN, as well as particularly vulnerable or depleted species, along the same lines of the existing Spanish ban of thresher and hammerhead sharks;
  • the introduction of science-based limits on catches (including by-catch) for all other shark species caught in ICCAT fisheries; and of precautionary catch limits when scientific advice is unavailable; and
  • the improvement of the ICCAT finning ban by requiring that sharks be landed with their fins wholly or partially attached in a natural manner.


The International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) is an inter-governmental fishery organization responsible for the conservation of tunas and tuna-like species in the Atlantic Ocean and its adjacent seas. The ICCAT annual meeting consists of delegates from more than 48 countries fishing in the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea, discussing the future of large pelagic species such as endangered bluefin tuna, sharks and swordfish. The upcoming meeting of ICCAT, will be held in Paris from November 17 to 27.

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