ICCAT: a step forward in the conservation of Mediterranean swordfish
Today, at the 2009 Regular Meeting of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna (ICCAT) currently taking place in Brazil, the EU will present a new proposal which would lead to substantial progress in the conservation and management of swordfish in the Mediterranean.
While maintaining the practice of closing the fishery for two consecutive months (October and November), the EU has proposed to give this closure more clout by introducing some additional management measures. The closure periods decided in the past (one month in 2007 and two months in 2008) have indeed an inherent flaw, as by-catch of swordfish by vessels fishing other species during the swordfish closure period have not been forbidden. This would change under the EU proposal and immediately lead to better protection for juvenile swordfish . Furthermore, the EU proposal contains concrete measures to improve knowledge of the fisheries and of its characteristics through the systematic collection of better types of data. These would, in turn be analysed by ICCAT's scientists in the course of 2010 in order to come up with an updated evaluation of the status of the stock and with more solid scientific advice on additional management measures. The European Commission strongly hopes that its proposal to strengthen the conservation of swordfish will meet ICCAT's approval and thus enable the international community to better protect one of the most vulnerable and symbolic species in the Mediterranean. This is a necessary step in view of the adoption of a comprehensive long-term management plan, as formally requested by the UE for the end of 2010.
The catching of swordfish dates back to ancient times. However, swordfish has recently been subject to high mortality, due to either direct commercial fishing or to incidental catches in other fishing operations. This has given rise to increasing international concern. The proposal presented this week addresses concerns expressed by ICCAT members and by numerous environmental organisations, as well as by the European fishing sector itself. It represents significant progress from last year’s rules and shows that the EU is committed to ensuring that conservation measures for Mediterranean swordfish be improved.