Friday, 10 January 2020 14:37

Spain: ICCAT adopts measures to rebuild bigeye tuna stocks

EM1 20 News Int TunaICCAT, the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna, the regional fisheries management body responsible for the conservation of tuna and tuna-like species in the Atlantic and adjacent seas, concluded negotiations at its 26th regular sesion by adopting a 15-year rebuilding plan for bigeye tuna. Although an imperfect plan in the eyes of many, it’s adoption was significant progress compared to the session last year, when the 52 contracting parties failed to agree on measures to protect the stock despite clear advice from the commission’s own scientists on the need to significantly reduce catches. The adopted plan reduces the total allowable catch forcing countries to make significant cuts to their current catches, a stricter limit on the number of fish aggregating devices (FAD) permitted per vessel, as well as an Atlantic-wide closure of FADs for two months in 2020 and three months in 2021. FAD closure was previously restricted to the Gulf of Guinea for two months. Other business conducted during the 8-day meeting included amending the 50-year-old ICCAT convention to provide the commission with a mandate to manage sharks and rays, which will help in the fight against IUU fishing, and the adoption of a measure to implement rebuilding efforts for Atlantic blue marlin and white marlin stocks.

The meeting also led to more stringent observer coverage of both purse seine and longline fleets. In the case of the former, coverage will increase to 100%, year-round, on purse seine vessels targeting tropical tunas as opposed to only during the time/area two-month FAD moratorium. Observer coverage on longliners increases from 5% to 10% in 2022. However, while delegates to the meeting took several steps in the right direction, no progress was made in reforming transshipment at sea, long demanded by NGOs, nor in protecting endangered and threatened sea turtles that are incidentally caught in longlines, nor in defending Atlantic shortfin mako shark stocks that have been classified as “Endangered” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and are considered highly depleted in the north Atlantic.