"The improvement in Bluefin tuna stocks is an economic and environmental success story, underlining what can be achieved through concerted international action and the efforts of fishermen. But now is not a time for complacency. We should keep up our efforts to ensure that, in line with the EU’s objective to improve international ocean governance, also future generations can enjoy the benefits of sustainably managed seas. This is the aim of the specific control measures, but also of the MedFish4Ever Declaration, a 10-year pledge to save the Mediterranean fish stocks and protect the region's ecological and economic wealth," said Karmenu Vella, Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries.
Based on previous experience and given the particularities of this year's fishing season (such as a 20 percent increase in the quota), a strict control and inspection programme has been put in place. To ensure high control standards, this programme sets concrete priorities and benchmarks. It involves a significant deployment of inspectors, patrol vessels and aircrafts coordinated by the European Fisheries Control Agency (EFCA) and the Member States concerned. The European Commission also monitors catches and analyses Vessel Monitoring System data (a satellite based control system) on a regular basis to ensure that all rules, and particularly the individual vessels' quotas, are fully respected.
In the Mediterranean and the Eastern Atlantic, large vessels, including purse seiners, are allowed to fish for Bluefin tuna from 26 May to 24 June. Together with traps, purse seiners account by far for the biggest part of the EU quota (74 %). As in previous years, particular attention is given to the control of those gears that catch the fish alive for farming purposes. This year, the number of vessels authorised to fish Bluefin tuna is 782 (of which, 49 purse seiners), while the number of authorised traps is 12. The EU quota for 2017 has been set at 13,451.4 tonnes. The Member States actively involved in the Bluefin tuna fishery are Spain, France, Croatia, Italy, Greece, Portugal, Malta and Cyprus.
The bluefin tuna fishery is regulated by the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT), to which the EU is a contracting party. In 2006, ICCAT adopted a multi-annual recovery plan for Bluefin tuna which has been regularly modified based on stock assessment, experience gained on control matters and the use of new technologies to evaluate quantities caught and caged. In 2010, 2012 and 2014 substantial measures have been introduced to enforce the sustainable management of the stock and to improve the control of Bluefin tuna caught alive for farming purposes by laying down detailed rules for the application of new technologies.
All necessary measures are being taken to ensure full compliance with the new provisions and ultimately the success of the recovery plan and long term sustainable management of the stock, in close collaboration with the EFCA, the Member States concerned and other ICCAT Contracting Parties.