Higher bluefin tuna quota eyed by member-nations at ICCAT meeting

Published on
November 17, 2017

As member nations of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas meet in Morocco, an international group is calling for the organization to expand an observer program on longline tuna vessels.

Currently, the organization observes five percent of the longline sector. The International Seafood Sustainability Foundation wants to see that increased to 20 percent in order to better assess the amount of bycatch that’s part of commercial fishing harvest. The foundation would like a similar percentage of observers on other major gears as well. 

The observer recommendation is just one of the positions the foundation is pushing at the conference, which began on Tuesday, 14 November in Marrakech. The ISSF also wants to see better management of the fish stocks.

“ICCAT made substantial headway last year by agreeing to maintain total allowable catch levels for yellowfin and bigeye tuna stocks, which have experienced overfishing in recent years,” ISSF President Susan Jackson said. “But ICCAT’s science committee estimates that catch limits for bigeye and yellowfin were still exceeded in 2017, by 11 percent and 16 percent, respectively. The situation must be addressed.”

The ISSF’s recommendations come on the heels of the International Pole and Line Foundation’s request to see reductions in yellowfin and bigeye stocks. According to the IPLF, the bigeye’s rebuilding plan has a 62 percent chance of failure.

As non-governmental organizations seek either reductions or maintenance to the status quo, the Associated Press reports that member-nations are looking to boost catch limits. In particular, ICCAT members eye a 50 percent increase in bluefin tuna, which would allow them to bring in up to 36,000 tons by 2020. 

However, the Pew Charitable Trust in a blog post last week reminded members that less than a decade ago an international ban was weighed because Atlantic bluefin stocks were so depleted. 

“The sensible way to accomplish that, consistent with ICCAT’s mandate, is to allow the stocks to continue to grow until recovery is confirmed and to continue management under existing plans until rebuilding is fully achieved,” Pew officials said. “Quotas of 28,000 metric tons and 1,000 metric tons are consistent with these goals for eastern and western bluefin, respectively.”

The conference is scheduled to run through next Wednesday.

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