The International Commission for the conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) met for its 26th Regular Meeting of the Commission, in Palma de Mallorca, Spain between the 18th and 25th November 2019. The parties to ICCAT adopted 17 Recommendations and Resolutions this year: two in relation with the new ICCAT Convention; six in relation with control, monitoring and surveillance activities; one in relation with marine pollution; as well as eight in relation to the conservation and management measures of marine species.
Steps forward towards the conservation of tropical tunas
The EU, for this year’s ICCAT annual meeting, had several important objectives, and one of the most crucial was the adoption new management measures for tropical tuna, after ICCAT was unable to reach an agreement on the overfished bigeye tuna last year.
The EU worked closely with other parties and succeeded in ICCAT adopting interim measures to end overfishing of bigeye tuna in the Atlantic and to overhaul the management of fishing activities on fishing aggregating devices (FADs) in order to reduce juvenile mortality for both bigeye and yellowfin tuna. This was achieved despite very strong initial divergences between a large number of parties in these fisheries. This represents a major achievement and should be a decisive step in allowing bigeye tuna to recover.
The EU will continue working hard intersessionally to ensure the adoption of a multi-annual plan next year including more comprehensive measures on management, fishing capacity and allocation of the total allowable catch (TAC) between parties.
Considerable achievements for blue sharks and marlins
For the first time, and based on two proposals by the EU, ICCAT adopted a total TAC for the southern Atlantic blue shark (28,923 t) and a quota allocation for the northern Atlantic blue shark. This allocation of the existing TAC for the northern blue shark is a ground-breaking decision. It is the first of its kind for sharks in ICCAT, making parties fully accountable for their catches and therefore ensuring the respect of the TAC in the future. This will provide a platform for the efficient long-term management of sharks. With the adoption of those Recommendations, ICCAT takes a proactive stance in managing two important stocks of shark for which catches had been steadily increasing in the last years.
Following a proposal co-sponsored by the EU, ICCAT also agreed on a rebuilding programme for marlins, aiming to end overfishing of blue marlin and to rebuild both blue and white marlins. After many years of overfishing, marlins finally receive the required levels of protection through a measure requiring their live release and through the adoption of a lower TAC in line with the scientific advice.
A new Convention for a more efficient International Commission for the conservation of Atlantic Tunas
After seven years of negotiations, ICCAT parties finally approved the package of amendments of the ICCAT Convention. This landmark and long-awaited agreement will improve ICCAT’s ability to effectively manage targeted shark fisheries and will modernise its working methods and decision-making procedures.
The EU was one of the parties that signed the Protocol immediately during the meeting, sending a strong signal of our commitment to strengthen ICCAT as an organisation.
The EU improves control measures of bluefin tuna
ICCAT also adopted two EU proposals aiming at strengthening the control and traceability of bluefin tuna related activities. The proposals will respectively be aiming at:
More work needed on shortfin mako in 2020
In the absence of agreement between the ICCAT parties on the adoption of a new conservation measure for the northern shortfin mako, the ICCAT parties agreed to apply the current ICCAT Recommendation 17-08. The proponents of a retention ban, which would result in the discarding of dead mako sharks, offered no solution to the core issue of how to reduce the mortality of shortfin mako being caught as by-catch. The EU had a proposal on the table that addressed the existence of these catches and was aimed at reducing mortality, which would have yielded increase conservation benefits. An intersessional meeting will be convened in the first half of 2020 to develop provisions to effectively further decrease the mortality of shortfin mako. The EU will continue working together with the other ICCAT Contracting Parties to find the right balance for a successful recovery of the stock.
While being insufficient to prevent overfishing in the short term, the current measure has already led to a significant decrease of the mortality, at least for EU fisheries. The EU regrets that in the roll-over of the measure, there was no agreement on inserting a cap on the landings as suggested by the EU and that there is still an exemption allowing sport and recreational fisheries to kill shortfin mako caught alive.
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