European Commission: Summary of the results of the 2011 ICCAT annual meeting
On Saturday 27 November the annual meeting of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) closed.
- A precautionary TAC of 12 900 tonnes was set in line with scientific advice, and the EU's mandate for this meeting, and will be reviewed in 2012. This will give the fishery stability in the short term, while enhancing the chances of achieving a full recovery of the stock within the timeframe set.
- The allocation key was slightly modified, by the transfer of quota from Algeria to Libya and Turkey. Turkey and Libya have also committed to much closer cooperation on inspection and monitoring. The EU quota remains unaltered.
- The control provisions of the BFT recovery plan were significantly strengthened, in order to close loopholes and tighten procedures even further. With one small exception, Joint Fishing Operations are now prohibited; VMS data must now be transmitted continuously throughout the fishing campaign, even when vessels are in port; and observers are mandatory on tugs, and on purse seiners below 20 metres in length, which were previously exempt.
- An EU-proposed recommendation on electronic catch documents for bluefin was also adopted, which will considerably simplify control and traceability in this fishery.
- There is no change in the EU Payback schedule that was agreed in Marrakesh.
- It proved impossible to get agreement on a number of the proposals tabled on sharks this year. However, three recommendations were adopted which extend the protection of these vulnerable stocks: on shortfin mako, oceanic whitetip, and hammerhead sharks.
- The EU is delighted that its proposal on hammerhead sharks has been adopted. The original proposal was slightly modified to allow landings to continue for one species (bonnethead), which is easily differentiable from other species, and which is in reasonable biological condition. A small exemption is also in place for local fisheries in coastal states which can demonstrate that no part of any sharks caught are allowed to enter the international market.
- The EU proposal on porbeagle could not be adopted due to lack of agreement with Canada, which insisted on an exemption for their coastal fishery. There was no consensus either on the EU proposal on thresher sharks. The Commission is disappointed by this result, and fully intends to retable sound science-based proposals for the protection of these stocks in 2011.
- The shortfin mako recommendation introduces an interesting provision that Contracting Parties which do not demonstrate their compliance with the management measures for this species, and in particular with the data provision obligations, should not be allowed to fish until they come into line. ICCAT members agreed they would like to see similar provisions extended to other fisheries in the future.
- The oceanic whitetip recommendation prohibits fisheries on this species throughout the ICCAT area.
- ICCAT also adopted a recommendation on sea turtles which introduces an obligation for operators to report interactions with turtles, as well as a range of measures designed to reduce by-catch.
- Lack of significant progress on swordfish stocks and other tuna species, in particular bigeye tuna, illustrates how bluefin tuna continues to drain the attention and energy of ICCAT, leading to a neglect of equally or even more serious conservation and compliance issues elsewhere.
- The Commission particularly regrets that other ICCAT members did not support the introduction of meaningful control and implementation measures as part of its proposal to extend the time-area closure for bigeye tuna in the Gulf of Guinea. The Commission therefore decided to go for a limited rollover of current measures instead, with the intention of coming back strongly on this issue next year.
- The Commission hopes that with stable, science-based measures on bluefin in place for the next years, it will now be possible to refocus ICCAT's attention on the many other stocks which it has under its care, and that we will be able to achieve for them a similar degree of precautionary management and effective control and monitoring.