By Joao Aguiar Machado, Director General of DG Fisheries and Maritime Affairs
Only a decade ago, the dire state of stocks of bluefin tuna generated widespread concern. But thanks to sustained efforts by the fishing industry since 2007, scientists now register steady progress. In fact, the Atlantic bluefin tuna stock is approaching a historic high. The last time the stock was at this level, there were no rules in place. In some years, catches would reach as much as 60,000 tons, eventually leading to its collapse.
The recovery of bluefin tuna is a conservation success story, with industry, science and governments working hand in hand. When stocks were low we compelled fishermen to follow strict scientific advice. It is a legitimate expectation that they can now follow the advice when it allows for an increase.
This week's annual meeting of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) in Marrakesh agreed on an increase of the total allowed catches (TAC) for bluefin tuna. Reaching a maximum of 36,000 tons by 2020 is fully in line with scientific advice and more cautious than the agreed CFP objectives. And thanks to a precautionary approach defended by the EU, the increase will be phased in only gradually.
Given our objective of promoting sustainable fisheries, it goes without saying that the European Commission would not suddenly allow a riskier approach. In fact, this year’s decision is probably more solid than ever before, thanks to improved scientific methods.
Finally, I regret that the EU's proposal to move towards a more long-term management plan, was not adopted, but postponed to next year's ICCAT meeting. We will continue our efforts for sustainable fisheries. There is lots of work ahead for us all.