By James Wright, SeaFood Business senior editor
Published on 18 November, 2012
Atlantic bluefin tuna quotas in 2013 will be slightly higher than in the previous three years, but environmental groups seem content with the results of the recent meeting of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) that concluded Monday in Agadir, Morocco.
A quota of 13,400 metric tons was set for the Eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean sea for next year, up slightly from 12,900 metric tons the previous three years. An additional allowance of 100 metric tons was made for Algeria for the next two years. Measures beyond 2013 will be determined on the basis of new science.
Amanda Nickson, global tuna conservation director for the Pew Environment Group, was encouraged that the commission did not overreact to recent scientific surveys that she said last week showed a “possibility, maybe, of a glimmer of hope” for the stock’s recovery.
“It was a good week for Atlantic bluefin tuna,” Nickson said. “Based on ICCAT’s own scientific recommendations, [13,400 metric tons] is an acceptable and appropriate quota.”
“The 2012 meeting was a real test of the commitment of ICCAT members on the conservation of the bluefin tuna,” said Dr. Sergei Tudela, head of fisheries for the World Wildlife Fund-Mediterranean. “We are pleased that respect for science has finally been imposed, with the EU at the forefront, in the fight against short-term benefits by setting unsustainable fishing levels.”
In the Western Atlantic, the quota was held to just 1,750 metric tons, a total that is shared between Canada and the United States. According to Nickson, delegates from Canada proposed a 2,000-metric-ton quota but were denied.
Nickson added that political pressure to raise bluefin tuna fishing quotas was strong, particularly from Spain.
“What we had heard, leading into this meeting, was that the Spanish wanted to interpret the glimmer of recovery in the most optimistic light,” she said. “They wanted the quota raised, but the EU position was not to do that.”
ICCAT also adopted an electronic catch-documentation scheme that will be rolled out over the next two years, replacing the existing paper trail. Environmental groups hope the technological advancement will lead to more transparency.
It’s not all singing and dancing in the streets of Agadir, however. Environmental group Oceana says it is “baffled” that ICCAT would take precaution for bluefin but not for sharks. The group panned ICCAT for failing to take measures to protect highly migratory shark species.
“The outcomes of this meeting reflect a baffling, contradictory approach within ICCAT,” said Maria Jose Cornax, fisheries campaign manager for Oceana Europe. “We welcome the willingness of ICCAT [contracting parties] to stay on the path toward bluefin tuna recovery in 2013, but we are extremely concerned about the future of ICCAT’s ‘forgotten species.’ ICCAT is much more than bluefin tuna. ICCAT must remove its blinders and look beyond this one fish, to the many other stocks for which it is responsible.”
ICCAT joins 47 countries and the EU in the fisheries management and protection of tuna and related species in the Atlantic Ocean and adjacent seas.