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Read our policy statement:
The International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) is a regional fisheries management organization (RFMO) responsible for the conservation and management of tuna and tuna-like species in the Atlantic Ocean and adjacent seas.
ICCAT is also responsible for other fish species caught in tuna fisheries in its convention area, principally sharks.
The 48 contracting parties (governments) to ICCAT will gather in Agadir, Morocco, from 12-19 November, 2012 for the Commission’s 18th Special Meeting.
ICCAT has taken steps in recent years toward managing tunas and sharks more sustainably and improving compliance with existing management measures.
However, much more work is needed, because the Commission’s actions are not yet sufficient to restore and guarantee healthy tuna and shark populations across the Atlantic Ocean.
This year’s annual ICCAT meeting is critical for Atlantic bluefin tuna, because quotas for the western and eastern populations will be set for the next two to three years, based on ICCAT’s updated stock assessments and scientific recommendations.
A healthy future for bluefin depends upon governments following the new scientific advice to exercise caution and refrain from raising the current fishing quotas in the east and west. Before considering any such increase, ICCAT must:
- Update its bluefin stock assessments to include the best available science and data in order to make them a solid basis on which to set meaningful quotas.
- Address illegal fishing in the Mediterranean Sea and eastern Atlantic.
ICCAT took important steps in recent years: In 2009, it set quotas for eastern bluefin tuna in line with scientific advice, and in 2011, it launched a pilot program to help combat illegal fishing by electronically tracking bluefin from sea to sale. Now, when there is finally a glimmer of hope for the species, it’s critical that ICCAT governments continue to heed scientific advice and ensure that their actions result in real recovery for bluefin.
ICCAT members must also take action at this year’s meeting to improve conservation of sharks, which are caught in ICCAT fisheries and are among the ocean’s most vulnerable animals. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) International Plan of Action for Sharks calls on States to cooperate through RFMOs to promote sustainability of shark stocks. ICCAT should adopt conservation and management measures for these animals in the Atlantic Ocean and take the following actions at this year’s special meeting in Morocco:
- Prohibit the retention of porbeagle and other threatened and highly vulnerable shark species.
- Establish concrete, science-based precautionary catch limits for shortfin mako and blue sharks.
- Require best practices for reducing bycatch (incidental catch in fishing gear) and shark finning.
ICCAT has developed a set of measures to support compliance with its recommendations. However the compliance system is by no means complete, nor is it sufficiently effective to end illegal fishing practices in the ICCAT convention area. Members must take action at this meeting to strengthen measures to end illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing and ensure greater transparency in fishing operations, thereby also protecting the interests of all legitimate fishers. ICCAT should take the following actions at the 18th special session to improve compliance:
- Fully implement the electronic bluefin catch documentation scheme (eBCD) by the start of the 2013 Mediterranean purse-seine fishing season.
- Take decisive action against the ongoing practice of fishing with illegal driftnets for bluefin tuna in the Mediterranean.
- Stop members from carrying forward any unused bluefin quota from previous years.
- Adopt a strong port State measures scheme.
- Improve identification of fishing vessels through the use of International Maritime Organization numbers, particularly vessels fishing for bluefin tuna.
- Review implementation of and compliance with existing shark measures.
As an international treaty body operating in the 21st century, ICCAT must formally embrace the international best practices for fisheries management, as defined by more modern agreements and resolutions, including the Antigua Convention, the U.N. Fish Stocks Agreement, and the U.N. Sustainable Fisheries Resolution. It is vital that ICCAT’s treaty put into practice the precautionary principle and the ecosystem approach in order to ensure healthy populations of tunas and sharks into the future.
To properly manage sharks, the Commission needs clear authority to manage migratory shark species caught both as bycatch and in targeted shark fisheries. The convention’s text should be clarified to provide the Commission with direct management authority over sharks.
2012 Priorities in Summary
In line with scientific advice, do not increase any Atlantic bluefin quotas until the best available science is incorporated into the stock assessment, uncertainty in the models is reduced, and illegal fishing is effectively addressed
Adopt conservation and management measures to protect sharksProhibit the retention of porbeagle and other threatened and highly vulnerable shark species
Establish concrete, precautionary, science-based catch limits for shortfin mako and blue sharks
Require best practices for reducing shark bycatch and finning, including requiring that sharks are landed with their fins still naturally attached and banning the use of wire leaders
Improve Compliance with ICCAT Measures
Fully implement the electronic bluefin catch documentation (eBCD) scheme by the start of the 2013 purse seine fishing season in the Mediterranean Sea
Take decisive action against the ongoing use of illegal driftnets in the Mediterranean Sea
Stop members from carrying forward any unused bluefin quota from previous years
Adopt a strong port State measures scheme
Improve the identification of fishing vessels through the use of IMO numbers, particularly those fishing for bluefin tuna
Review implementation of and compliance with existing shark measures
Begin the formal process to amend the International Convention for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas
Update the ICCAT Convention text to explicitly include sharks
Implement the ecosystem approach to fisheries management and ensure that the precautionary principle underpins all conservation and management decisions