ICCAT Cuts Bluefin Quota; U.S. Says It's Not Enough


SeafoodSource staff

Published on
November 24, 2008

The International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas yesterday reduced the bluefin tuna quota to 22,000 metric tons, a level the United States and several environmental groups say is not nearly enough to save the species from collapse in the eastern Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea.

A U.S. delegation to the ICCAT meeting in Marrakech, Morocco, urged the international body of 45 nations and the European Commission to cut catch levels from 29,000 metric tons to about 15,000 metric tons. Much of the tuna harvested from the eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean ends up in Japan.

"I am extremely disappointed with the results of this meeting," says Dr. Rebecca Lent, head of the U.S. delegation and director of international affairs at the National Marine Fisheries Service. "While the commission followed the recommendation to reduce catch levels for the western stock consistent with the science, it continues to put the species as a whole in jeopardy by authorizing excessive fishing levels on the eastern stock."

Several environmental groups, including Oceana and World Wildlife Fund, condemned ICCAT's decision to allow bluefin tuna fishing to continue at high levels.

"ICCAT's string of successive failures leaves us little option now but to seek effective remedies through trade measures and extending the boycott of retailers, restaurants, chefs and consumers," says Sergi Tudela, Mediterranean's fisheries program leader for WWF.

The catch level for the western Atlantic stock was reduced from 2,100 metric tons to 1,800 metric tons by 2010. This much-smaller stock is harvested by the United States, Canada, Mexico and Japan.

Although the final measure for eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean bluefin tuna fails to fully achieve U.S. objectives, NMFS says the plan adopted by ICCAT will reduce mortality and improve monitoring and control of the fishery through new reporting requirements, measures that seek to reduce overcapacity and rationalize the fishery, and establishment of an ICCAT regional observer program.

The United States was able to extend, for an additional year, strong management measures for North Atlantic swordfish. This will provide time to revitalize the swordfish stock and allow any new management measures to be based on the most recent stock assessment, which will be completed in 2009. In addition, a commitment was secured to analyze and implement fishing closures to protect juvenile bigeye tuna by 2010, pending scientific advice.

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