After two years of intensive negotiations, ICCAT (the International Commission for the conservation of Atlantic Tunas) finally adopted a management plan for Bluefin tuna, during its annual meeting on 12-19 November 2019.
“Eleven years after the adoption of the recovery plan for bluefin tuna in Dubrovnik, it was fitting that it was in this same city that ICCAT finally reached agreement on a long-term management plan for this iconic species. I salute the negotiators on all sides. At the same time, it is very disappointing that despite the EU’s ambitious and balanced proposal, it was not possible to agree a management plan also for tropical tuna. The EU will therefore continue to work tirelessly to that end. We owe it to our fishermen. We owe it to our ocean,” said Commissioner Karmenu Vella, responsible for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries.
The EU proposal, which formed the basis for the new Bluefin tuna plan, took account of the satisfactory status of the Bluefin tuna stock and followed the scientific advice to move from the current rebuilding plan to a management plan, without weakening control measures. The resulting new management framework includes new measures to improve the traceability in tuna farms, whilst also facilitating the return to fishery of small-scale artisanal fishermen.
Meanwhile, it was regrettable that ICCAT was unable to reach agreement on an ambitious long-term management plan for tropical tuna fisheries in the Atlantic, despite a balanced proposal from the EU. The EU proposal had aimed to reduce mortality of juvenile tropical tunas, as well as improving capacity and control measures. However, the final proposal did not address the main issues currently facing the stock. In the EU’s view, it did not contain sufficiently ambitious measures for the allocation of fishing opportunities and failed to address basic requirements in terms of conservation and control measures, crucial to avoid an exponential increase in fishing mortality and inadequate controls. Consequently, the EU and many other Contracting Parties were ultimately not able to endorse the final proposal presented by South Africa, and as a result, the existing measure was rolled over for another year.
The stock of bigeye tuna is currently overfished and there is urgent need to take decisive action. The EU will now continue to work for an ambitious, yet balanced agreement, addressing the specific challenges facing the stock, whilst reflecting the aspirations of developing coastal states, with a view to having it adopted at the next annual meeting.
On Bluefin tuna, the ICCAT meeting also reached agreement on a model for financing the electronic catch certificate. Established in 2016, this system aim to ensure a full traceability of bluefin tuna. The agreement is an important step towards further development of the system. Further progress was also achieved on the process to develop the management strategy evaluation (MSE) for bluefin tuna by adopting a resolution with the initial operational objectives. These objectives will serve as a basis future advancements of the bluefin tuna management plan.
On Tropic tuna, reaching an ambitious agreement for a long-term management plan had been one of the EU’s priorities for the annual meeting. The EU’s proposal therefore included a monitoring, control and surveillance scheme for large and small-scale fisheries, the obligation for inspections of landings in designated ports, a ban for transhipment at sea, the doubling of the observers coverage and the re-introduction of the Regional Observer Program, with adapted measures for the Coastal Developing States. The EU had also proposed a substantial reduction of the maximum number of active Fishing aggregated device (FADs), as well as a 2-months fishing closure for all vessels fishing with floating objects, for the entire Atlantic. Moreover, acknowledging the challenges for developing countries to implement the measures, the EU had offered to work closely with those Contracting Parties to identify how potential difficulties could be resolved. The EU had also taken into consideration their expectations regarding the allocation of quotas.
ICCAT is the International Commission for the conservation of Atlantic Tunas responsible for the conservation of tunas and tuna-like species in the Atlantic oceans and adjacent seas. Currently there are 52 contracting parties' delegations, including the EU representing the interests of all EU member states. For more information and access to all ICCAT reports and proposals:
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