ICCAT cuts bluefin tuna quota slightly

The International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna (ICCAT) has agreed to cut the Atlantic bluefin tuna quota from 13,500 metric tons this year to 12,900 metric tons in 2011.

The decision came as the 48-member commission wrapped up its 10-day annual meeting in Paris on Saturday. ICCAT scientists concluded that the new quota will put eastern Atlantic bluefin tuna on track for a 70 percent chance of reaching maximum sustainable yield by 2022.

Europe’s fishing community, including Bruno Le Maire, France’s agriculture and fisheries minister, and Japan, which buys more than 80 percent of all bluefin harvested from the Mediterranean and eastern Atlantic, were pleased with the outcome, though the head of the Japanese delegation, Masanori Miyahara, told AFP that stronger compliance is needed to ensure that the quota isn’t exceeded.

The environmental camp, however, was disappointed with the decision. The World Wildlife Fund, for example, had called for a quota of less than 6,000 metric tons.

“This measly quota reduction is insufficient to ensure the recovery of bluefin tuna in the Mediterranean Sea,” said Dr. Sergi Tudela, head of WWF-Mediterrean’s fisheries program. “After years of observing ICCAT and countless opportunities to do the right thing, it is clear to us that the commission’s interests lie not in the sustainable harvesting of bluefin tuna but in pandering to short-term business interests. There have been no effective measures implemented here to deal with widespread illegal and unreported fishing for bluefin tuna in the Mediterranean.”

“It is appalling that the governments gathered here were unable to finally put the brakes on this slow-moving crash of an environmental disaster. Instead, the European Union used its political muscle to ensure the continuation of the tuna-farming business responsible for the current situation,” said Oliver Knowles, Greenpeace International oceans campaigner. “This outcome confirms that the bluefin’s days are numbered and has demonstrated ICCAT’s inability to act on its own mandate.”

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