ICCAT's new albacore tuna management plan praised by environmental groups

The International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas concluded its annual conference in Morocco last week, and while the decision to raise bluefin tuna catch limits drew the most attention, the commission made decisions – or in one case, didn’t – on a few other important issues as well.

The commission’s decision to implement harvest control rules as part of its management plan for North Atlantic albacore tuna drew praise from environmental groups. Under terms of the agreement, ICCAT will implement “severe management actions” to reduce the mortality rate if the spawning stock biomass falls below certain triggers. Those actions include closing the fishery until it can create a rebuilding program to ensure the albacore’s sustainability.

“This will enter this fishery into a more modern, science-based management system, which avoids the controversial quota-based negotiations that we saw this year,” said Rachel Hopkins, Pew Charitable Trust’s senior officer for global tuna conservation. “If bluefin and other tuna stocks are going to have a shot at long-term recovery, it will be critical for ICCAT to stick to its commitment to adopt similar rules for its other stocks, including Atlantic bluefin, by agreed deadlines.”

Adam Baske, the director of policy and advocacy from the International Pole and Line Foundation, which advocates for one-by-one fisheries, said the agreement is an important one for fishing interests in northern Spain. 

One area though where the commission could not reach consensus was on catch limits for bigeye and yellowfin tuna. While the decision on those limits were tabled, they did agree to curb quotas for countries that exceeded their 2016 catch limits.

“Those countries with large on- by-one fisheries were leading the charge to take action, but consensus was not possible,” Baske said.  “The outcome exemplifies the challenge with international management of tuna fisheries – the smaller-scale operations, with links to communities, food security, and livelihoods, are not at the top-of-mind for some decision makers.”


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