ICCAT adopts electronic tracking for bluefin
The International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna (ICCAT) has agreed to implement and fund an electronic system for tracking catches of bluefin tuna to curb illegal fishing.
The electronic system will replace the current paper one, which critics say is rife with fraud and misinformation and has led to overfishing. A report from the Pew Environment Group last month showed that 140 percent more Mediterranean bluefin tuna entered the market last year than was declared, largely because the paper-based catch recording system is open to abuse.
Despite the positive move for bluefin, environmental organizations, including Pew and the World Wildlife Fund, were not completely satisfied with the action. While Pew said the electronic tacking will help close the gap between quotas and what is actually traded, more still needs to be done if bluefin tuna populations are to recover.
“Overall we are pleased to see come improvements in countries taking their commitments seriously and movement toward strong consequences for overfishing and breaking the rules,” said Susan Liebman, Pew director of international policy. “But ICCAT members have much more to do if they are to restore and guarantee healthy tuna and shark populations across the Atlantic.”
WWF also welcomed the electronic catch-documentation scheme, but said without an improvement in the provision and accuracy of data being transferred into the many Mediterranean bluefin farms, the measure falls far short of what is needed.
“No matter how comprehensive and functional this mechanism, WWF is concerned that the continued absence of data on quantity and size of Bluefin tuna caged in fattening farms creates a black hole and provides an easy facility for the laundering of illegal, unregulated and unreported catches of Mediterranean bluefin tuna,” said Sergi Rudela, WWF-Mediterranean head of fisheries.
In the Atlantic, ICCAT voted to restrict to use of fish aggregating devices which attract tuna and sharks, which critics say leads to high bycatch levels. The meeting also resulted in extra protection for the silky shark, which are often snared accidentally by tuna boats. Fishermen will now be required to release them alive.