It's time to act: ICCAT must support sustainable and equitable tuna fisheries in the Atlantic Ocean

IPNLF and its Member network call for immediate actions to safeguard the future of coastal fishing communities that rely on healthy tuna stocks
Pole-and-line fishing in South Africa © South African Tuna Association

The International Pole & Line Foundation (IPNLF) is urging the 50 country members of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) to immediately adopt much-needed management measures to deliver sustainable and equitable tuna fisheries in the Atlantic Ocean.

This year’s ICCAT meeting convenes in Marrakesh, Morocco, on 14-22 November, and is expected to address a number of problems, including the unsustainable catch levels of key tuna stocks. 

The ICCAT Convention Area is home to a number of one-by-one tuna fisheries, including many pole-and-line fisheries (Azores, Brazil, Madeira, Senegal, South Africa, Saint Helena, Northern Spain, Canary Islands, Ghana, Namibia and others). The success and future of these fishing communities relies heavily on the responsible management of these highly migratory stocks by ICCAT member countries. 

Specifically, IPNLF wants ICCAT members to take action in the following four critical areas:

  • Fix the tropical tuna measure (2016-01) to reduce catches of yellowfin and bigeye to sustainable levels. At current catch rates, it is forecast that the bigeye tuna rebuilding target has a 62% chance of failure
  • Improve data collection and regulation of supply vessels and other undermanaged fishing gears that contribute to overall fishing effort, including drifting fish aggregating devices (FADs)
  • Adopt an interim Harvest Control Rule (HCR) for North Atlantic Albacore, and advance the development of harvest strategies for other species to avoid adverse impacts on stocks and the coastal communities that rely on the fisheries for food security and livelihoods
  • Adopt measures to reduce bycatches and to protect endangered, threatened, or protected species, including sharks, seabirds, cetaceans and turtles

It has been recognised that the 50 ICCAT Contracting Parties, Cooperating non-Contracting Parties, Entities or Fishing Entities (CPCs collectively) have made decent progress in recent times. Indeed, at the Commission’s 2016 meeting, held in Vilamoura, Portugal, they agreed to manage northern albacore in line with international best-practice and to apply a precautionary approach to fisheries management. However, ICCAT could not agree on concrete actions to address the high levels of juvenile bigeye and yellowfin caught in association with FADs, and the issue has only gotten worse.

“The Atlantic’s one-by-one tuna fisheries support local livelihoods in isolated and developing economies, they enhance food security and provide a global supply chain with responsibly harvested tuna. Fishing communities around the Atlantic Ocean are looking to ICCAT decision makers to end overfishing and protect their futures,” says Adam Baske, Director of Policy & Outreach at IPNLF.”

Ms Siphokazi Ndundane, the Deputy Director General of Fisheries Management in South Africa’s Department: Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF), who also leads South Africa’s delegation at ICCAT, added: "Responsible tuna fisheries – taking tuna one-at-a-time – play a key role in maintaining healthy ecosystems and sustainable fisheries throughout the Atlantic. However, we fear the increased use of FADs, supply vessels, and other technological advances threaten the future of our responsible coastal operators. We will work with other delegates at the upcoming meeting to fix the current measures so that the future of our shared fish stocks, our fishermen, and our coastal communities is not undermined by unsustainable practices of a single sector.”

Market players from throughout the supply chain, including many of the IPNLF Member companies, are similarly aligned and want to see fisheries managers take meaningful action in Marrakech. 

Charles Redfern, founder of the tinned seafood brand Fish4Ever comments, “It is up to ICCAT parties to look beyond bluefin tuna this year and take immediate action to end the overfishing of other species. Countless coastal tuna fisheries throughout the region depend on bigeye and yellowfin tuna fisheries, and their future currently hangs in the balance. ICCAT needs to recognise the pressing issues facing small-scale operators, and take steps to limit the industrialised over-exploitation so that the fishers and fishing communities using low-impact fishing methods are not lost in this reckless pursuit for profits.”

Baske adds, “At this year’s meeting, the Commission has the opportunity to add to its recent successes and address those important fisheries management gaps that still remain. We are optimistic that the CPCs will find common ground at the meeting in Marrakesh, and we look forward to working on the ground with delegations to support the delivery of dynamic, new measures.”

IPNLF’s full Position Statement ahead of the 25th Regular Meeting of ICCAT is available here.

Notes to Editors

The International Pole & Line Foundation (IPNLF) works to develop, support and promote socially and environmentally responsible pole-and-line, handline and troll tuna fisheries around the world. IPNLF’s ambition is to contribute to thriving coastal fisheries, including the people, communities, businesses and seas connected with them.  As a hub for sustainably-minded organisations, we use the influence of the market to forge change through practical fishery projects and stakeholder cooperation. IPNLF membership is open to organisations involved in the one-by-one caught tuna supply chain. Allied with our Members, IPNLF demonstrates the value of one-by-one caught tuna to consumers, policymakers and throughout the supply chain. We work across science, policy and the seafood sector, using an evidence-based, solutions-focused approach with guidance from our Scientific & Technical Advisory Committee and Board of Trustees.

IPNLF was officially registered in the United Kingdom in 2012 (Charity 1145586), with branch offices in London and the Maldives, and a staff presence in Indonesia.

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