Pole-and-line advocates call for action on tropical tunas at ICCAT conference

Published on
November 9, 2017

With member nations of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas preparing to meet next week, a global advocacy group is calling on the commission to take immediate action to enact greater protections for tropical varieties of the species.

Among the actions the International Pole and Line Foundation wants the ICCAT to approve when it meets in Morocco is an agreement to reduce quotas on yellowfin and bigeye tuna. According to the foundation, the bigeye’s rebuilding plan has a 62 percent chance of failure.

Representatives from all 50 member countries in the commission are scheduled to start the conference on Tuesday, 14 November.

The foundation noted the commission made “decent progress” at last year’s annual meeting, in particular taking actions to manage the northern albacore stock in line with fishery management best practices. However, the members could not reach an agreement on reducing the high levels of juvenile bigeyes and yellowfins.

“Fishing communities around the Atlantic Ocean are looking to ICCAT decision makers to end overfishing and protect their futures,” said Adam Baske, the foundation’s director of policy and outreach. 

The commission’s membership includes several countries that have “one-by-one” fisheries, meaning fisherman catch only one fish at a time on each line they cast. That includes Brazil, Ghana, Namibia, Senegal, and South Africa.

Siphokazi Ndundane, the deputy director general of fisheries management for South Africa’s Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, said the one-by-one fisheries help sustain a healthy ecosystem.

“However, we fear the increased use of FADs, supply vessels, and other technological advances threaten the future of our responsible coastal operators,” she said. “We will work with other delegates at the upcoming meeting to fix the current measures so that the future of our shared fish stocks, our fishermen, and our coastal communities is not undermined by unsustainable practices of a single sector.”

Beyond addressing the tropical tuna issue, the IPNLF also wants the commission to adopt regulations to limit bycatch and also protect such endangered or threatened species as sharks, cetaceans, and turtles. The foundation is also encouraging the ICCAT to improve data collection and regulation of other fishing gears and adopt an interim harvest control rule on North Atlantic albacore.

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