ANALYSIS - The International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna (ICCAT) is currently holding its annual meeting in which the recovery plan for bluefin tuna is to be reviewed.
The current bluefin tuna management plan, which was adopted in 2010, is due to finish in 2013.
So far, stock assessment for Atlantic bluefin tuna has shown some early signs of recovery thanks to good management practice, but more data is needed to understand the recovery trend.
Environmental groups, WWF and Oceana, are calling on decision makers to follow ICCAT's scientific advice to ensure the bluefin tuna quotas in the Eastern Atlantic and the Mediterranean remain the same.
“ICCAT must keep recovery ambitions high for the fragile bluefin tuna. Big achievements are long in the making but in only an instant can be lost,” said Dr Sergi Tudela, Head of Fisheries, WWF-Mediterranean.
“ICCAT scientists are clear this year that the fishing quotas must not increase to enable Atlantic bluefin tuna to fully recover over the next decade,” said Dr Tudela.
Despite a precautionary approach, Oceana stated that the EU has agreed on the possibility of increasing the quota within scientific limits, up to 13,500 tons.
Maria José Cornax, Fisheries Campaign Manager of Oceana Europe, stated: “We welcome the unprecedented rational and cautious approach taken by EU Member States, but we cannot help but fear the consequences of proposing any increase in the bluefin quota.
“To do so means opening a Pandora’s box, because it not only could fuel third countries´ calls for unsustainable quota increases, but it could also jeopardise EU proposals for shark conservation, which are often affected by bluefin political discussions.”
The European Commission has stated that it is important to keep bluefin tuna management measures stable in order to ensure recovery and to keep a sustained yield for fishermen in the future. However this should not prevent ICCAT from strengthening the management and control part of the recovery plan, such as putting in place the electronic catch documentation system for bluefin tuna where necessary.
Also on the agenda for the ICCAT meeting, being held 12 - 19 November in Agadir, Morocco, are; the protection of sharks, conservation of blue and white marlin and measures to combat Illegal, Unreported, Unregulated fishing (IUU).