Europe’s ‘smooth running’ bluefin tuna season ends early
This year’s bluefin tuna fishing season in the Western and Central Mediterranean Sea and in the Adriatic Sea came to a close on 21 June for purse seiners, three days before the official closure on 24 June, despite increased catch limits for the recovering stock.
The season opened on 26 May.
The European Commission (EC) said it considered that the 2017 season “ran smoothly” and that inspections on European vessels did not reveal systemic illegal activities.
This was the first year that all European operators had used the new electronic catch documentation system for bluefin tuna – the Bluefin Catch Document (eBCD) – developed by the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT). The transition from the paper-based bluefin tuna catch documentation program to an electronic bluefin tuna catch documentation system has been in response to the need to detect fraud and deter illegal, unregulated, and unreported (IUU) shipments, as well as to improve tracking of bluefin tuna catch and commerce.
Operators involved in the live trade of bluefin began using the system in 2016.
The EC’s control team, together with the team of the European Fisheries Control Agency (EFCA) and in close co-operation with the competent national authorities, is now monitoring that caging operations in Spain, Malta and Croatia perform according to ICCAT standards, in order to guarantee full implementation of ICCAT rules and EU legislation.
While benefiting from the increase in fishing opportunities, the majority of European purse seine vessels had already fished their quota in early June, and vessels were called back to port by their national authorities.
Following growing evidence of an important increase in bluefin tuna abundance, and on the basis of a 2014 stock assessment, ICCAT agreed on a 60 percent increase of the overall total allowable catch over the years 2015 to 2017. The EU quota for 2017 was 13,451 metric tons (MT) compared to 11,200 MT last year.