Running from 26 May to 24 June in the Mediterranean and the Eastern Atlantic, this short fishing season allows large purse seiner vessels to fish Bluefin tuna up to a pre-determined limit. This is part of a recovery plan agreed at international level to bring the Bluefin tuna stock back to sustainable levels. The Bluefin tuna fishery is regulated by the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT), of which the EU and its Member States are members.
Following advice from ICCAT scientists in 2014, ICCAT has agreed to an increase of 60% of the Total Allowable Catch (TAC) over three years (2015, 2016 and 2017). In 2016 this brings the European TAC to 11203 tonnes. The quota is shared between the 8 EU countries actively involved in the Bluefin tuna fishery (Spain, France, Italy, Croatia, Greece, Portugal, Malta, and Cyprus), with Spain and France having the largest shares.
To ensure that no overfishing takes place and similarly to previous years, a strict control and inspection programme is in place: it sets concrete control priorities and benchmarks and deploys a significant number of inspectors, patrol vessels and aircrafts, all coordinated by the European Fisheries Control Agency and the Member States concerned.
The European Commission is pleased with the work and commitment of the Member states to ensure compliance with the rules in this fishery in the past few years, and is also appreciative of the significant role played by the Agency in ensuring the coordination of these controls. We will however remain vigilant to ensure that all rules, and particularly the individual vessels' quotas, are fully respected. We will continue to monitor catches and analyse Vessel Monitoring System data (a satellite-based control system) on a constant basis and we will continue to send out inspectors.
For the first time in 2016, the EU is also implementing the eBCD, a new state-of-the-art electronic catch document system which greatly improves the traceability of all Bluefin tuna products. The use of this programme, combined with the rest of the measures of the recovery plan, makes this fishery one the most controlled in the world, and provides the best guarantees to consumers that the resource is being used sustainably.
Bluefin tuna is indeed a primary example of sustainable management, having gone from heavy over-exploitation to full recovery in the space of a few years thanks to a massive international effort led by the EU. To this date it is the only stock in good state in the Mediterranean, while a great majority of stocks remain overfished. Convinced that the same kind of collaborative effort should be extended to the other iconic species of the basin, EU Commissioner Karmenu Vella has launched MedFish4ever, a new international campaign for the recovery of all Mediterranean stocks. He has been gaining alliances with several of the basin’s third countries to make sure we proceed cohesively and systematically.
Finally, the European Commission is pleased with the recent political agreement found with the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union to transpose the ICCAT Bluefin tuna recovery plan into European law. By bringing about additional legal certainty and smoothing the implementation of the various measures of the recovery plan, this can only support the stock's recovery plan and its long-term sustainability.
In 2006 ICCAT adopted a 15-year recovery plan for Bluefin tuna in the East Atlantic and Mediterranean, which has since been regularly updated based on stock assessment, actual controls and new technologies.
In 2010 and 2012 substantial measures were introduced to ensure the sustainable management of the stock. In November 2013 detailed rules were adopted for the application of new technologies to improve the control of Bluefin tuna caught alive for farming purposes. These rules were further improved with the adoption of Recommendation 14-04 in November 2014. In 2015, ICCAT also adopted measures concerning the implementation of the electronic bluefin catch document system, or eBCD.