ICCAT issues new rules for Atlantic tuna

The International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas issued amended guidelines with respect to tuna and swordfish fisheries in June.

Among the new or amended guidelines was a stipulation for tuna caught as bycatch to be retained on-board the fishing vessel, while discards would only be allowed in exceptional cases. The updated guidelines also have adjusted the total allowable catch quotas for some fisheries. Further, the commission has informed members that they will no longer be allowed to record data on bluefin tuna on paper, with few exceptions.

Susan Singh-Renton, deputy executive director of the Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism, told SeafoodSource that the new guidelines, although termed recommendations, are binding on all ICCAT members. 

“Among the CRFM membership, Barbados, Belize, Grenada, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago, and the U.K. Overseas Territories are members of ICCAT, while Guyana and Suriname enjoy cooperating party status. These countries are obliged to comply with the ICCAT recommendations. Other CRFM States, e.g. St. Lucia and Dominica, which also have tuna and tuna-like fisheries have improved their voluntary cooperation and compliance with ICCAT. All of these developments have been influenced by the efforts of CRFM and its Caricom predecessor cooperation arrangements with ICCAT since 1991,” she said.

However, implementation of the guidelines will present some challenges. The ICCAT recommendations state that countries “whose purse-seiners are authorised to fish for bigeye and/or yellowfin and/or skipjack tuna in the Convention area … must require these vessels to retain on board then land or tranship to port all bigeye, skipjack, and yellowfin tunas caught [except in cases specified further in the document].” 

And “No bigeye, skipjack and/or yellowfin tuna caught by a purse seiner may be discarded during the set once the net is completely closed and when more than half of the net has been retrieved.”

The commission explained it was establishing this rule because of the considerable volumes of tuna caught as bycatch and the resulting “loss of data due to discards.”

But full compliance may not be easy to achieve, Singh-Renton said. 

“Caricom states have some of the usual developing state challenges for achieving full compliance. I would argue that at this time, the challenge lies in lack of sufficient understanding of the long-term and holistic social and economic benefit potential from the tuna fishing industry, and as a result, insufficient investment in fisheries management systems to ensure that these benefits are secured,” she said. “It should be noted that when countries are compliant, they can have a stronger voice at the ICCAT table regarding the formulation of recommendations and setting of country catch allocations, etc.”

The June 2018 ICCAT recommendations have also adjusted the total allowable catches of North Atlantic swordfish, with a view to ensuring with a 50 percent probability that the stock maintains its rebuilt condition up to 2028. Trinidad and Tobago now has a total allowable catch of 125 tons; Barbados, of 45 tons; and Belize 130 tons.

ICCAT has also informed member countries that the use of its electronic Bluefin Catch Document system, otherwise known as eBCD, “is mandatory for all [countries] and paper BCDs shall no longer be accepted,” except in limited circumstances.

Photo courtesy of Tono Balaguer/iStockphoto


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