This year’s International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) meeting (10th17th November) brought welcome measures for a number of tuna stocks by the time proceedings were brought to a close.
There has been widespread praise for ICCAT’s decision to adhere to the scientific advice and keep the bluefin tuna recovery plan unchanged. The Commission also adopted a proposal for electronic catch documentation systems for bluefin from May 2016, which is expected to become a key tool in the fight against illegal fishing by tracing of catches from sea to market. A new measure designed to rebuild bigeye tuna, including a reduction of the total allowable catch (TAC) to 65,000 tonnes for 2016, 2017 and 2018 passed as well.
Harvest Control Rules & Strategies
Perhaps the most ground breaking outcome from ICCAT’s 24th annual session in Malta was the decision to develop harvest strategies and rules to control catches for all fleets regulated by ICCAT, including a specific harvest control rule (HCR) for northern albacore. HCRs are a set of welldefined management actions that are taken in response to changes in stock status, and include appropriate, biologicallybased reference points. Looking ahead, they should allow ICCAT to apply modern concepts of fisheries management, and safeguard the many onebyone fishing communities throughout the Atlantic region.
Prior to the ICCAT meeting IPNLF, alongside other engaged nonprofit organisations and businesses, jointly called on the Commission’s members to support the adoption of robust and precautionary harvest strategies, including HCRs, for the Atlantic’s tuna fisheries. Such broadbased support surely played a role in the adoption of this critical management improvement, and goes to show the positive role of preRFMO collaboration amongst stakeholders.
Call to Action
But while clear progress was made at the meeting, not all ambitions were met. Criticism has come from the lack of mobility regarding shark conservation, in particular blue sharks, which risk remaining unmanaged until the next stock assessment takes place in 2018. Similarly, despite calls from a number of NGOs and EU commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries – Karmenu Vella – for the implementation of urgent measures to recover Mediterranean swordfish, the member parties failed to adopt any immediate management plan for the species. Instead, a stock assessment is expected to take place in 2016.