EU - As the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic's Tuna (ICCAT) 19th meeting drew to a close this week in Genoa, Italy, there is concern that the decision to increase the quota for eastern and Mediterranean bluefin tuna by around 20 per cent will jeopardise population recovery that has been made so far.
Delegates from the 50 fishing nations involved agreed to an increase of nearly 20 per cent every year, from 13,500 tonnes in 2014 to 19,296 tonnes in 2016, as tuna populations have shown signs of recovery after careful management.
Quotas for 2017, which have been initially set at 23,155 tonnes, will be reviewed based on the results of a stock assessment scheduled for 2016.
Quota's for the next two years were also increased by 14 per cent for western Atlantic bluefin tuna.
The EU described the eastern and Mediterranean tuna increase as moderate, upholding that it is fully in line with scientific advice.
European Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Karmenu Vella stressed the importance of a sustainable increase: "Tough decisions and sacrifices had to be made to ensure that the bluefin tuna stock did not collapse altogether. Today's decision on a gradual and moderate increase is in line with scientific advice and ensures that the stock's future is not jeopardised. At the same time it is a good reward to the efforts of the fishermen to restore this important stock that will bring about significant economic benefits."
However, the WWF stated that this increase is too much too soon, especially as little progress has been made in strengthening traceability in the fishery, and that some countries have ignored warnings from scientists that catch increases should be moderate and gradual.
“It is hard to apply the term 'moderate' to an annual increase of 20 per cent over three years. We are concerned that the huge conservation efforts of the last years might quickly fade away,” said Dr Sergi Tudela, Head of Fisheries at WWF Mediterranean.
Paulus Tak, a senior officer with The Pew Charitable Trusts, agreed with the WWF saying that this year's ICCAT decisions have been "overwhelmingly disappointing".
“The increased quotas for Atlantic bluefin are risky and threaten to undo recent gains. Significant concerns remain about the ability of these fish to fully recover from a long history of overfishing,” he said.
Another worrying outcome of the meeting is that whilst quotas are set to increase, the implementation of a electronic bluefin catch documentation system, which helps prevent the illegal fishing of tuna, has been delayed.
“Despite ongoing reports of seizures of illegally caught fish, for the fourth straight year governments are delaying the implementation of an electronic tracking system that would improve their ability to shrink the black market for Atlantic bluefin tuna,” Mr Tak said.
However, despite this delay, ICCAT members did take additional steps to eliminate opportunities for illegal fishing to go undetected.
States agreed to set up a special fund to assist in the implementation of port inspection requirements. International Maritime Organization (IMO) numbers will also be mandatory for vessels that are at least 20 meters in length and fish for bigeye and yellowfin tuna, said the Pew Charitable Trusts.
Steps were also taken to enhance the transparency of vessel monitoring systems, agreeing that vessels over 24 meters will be required to transmit data to any ICCAT coastal state when it is in its waters. Data will also be collected more frequently- now every four hours instead of six.
You can view the shark outcome of the meeting by clicking here.