As promised in my previous blog, here is an update on the outcomes of this year's International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) meeting held last month in Turkey. I would have provided this update sooner, but since then, I have traveled to Guatemala and China and am only now finally back at the IGFA headquarters.
As with the usual trends of ICCAT meetings, there were few successful outcomes - but at this point, we will take what little progress we can get and continue to push year after year.
Atlantic Bluefin Tuna: While ICCAT has continually refused to recognize that Atlantic bluefin tuna populations are greatly at risk and in dire need of more protection, they did implement a new electronic bluefin tuna catch documentation (eBCD) system. This system will replace the outdated and easily manipulated paper system (which often led to fraud and misinformation) and allow for near real-time tracking of bluefin tuna from when and where it is caught to when and where it is landed. The goal of this system is to combat illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing of bluefin tuna. To further curtail IUU fishing, the commission adopted an amendment to allow smaller vessels (12 meters as compared to the previous 20-meter minimum) that are operating illegally to also be listed, and port authorities will be required to inspect them as well.
Other Tunas: Protective measures were adopted for bigeye and yellowfin tuna, particularly off the coast of West Africa, where Fish Attracting Devices (FADs) are used to attract schools of fish and also result in a large number of bycatch. This measure should assist in protecting important nursery grounds near the Gulf of Guinea and allow for greater recruitment of these species to the western Atlantic and the U.S. More definitely needs to be done here.
Marlin: Reductions in allowable catch for blue marlin by the longline and purse seine fleet, as well as reductions in the allowable catch for white marlin were adopted, but still did not go far enough. Additionally, during the discussions on marlin, the European community made it quite clear that they intend to discuss recreational fishing impacts on the marlin stocks next year as well, even though these are near negligible when compared to impacts from the industrial and artisanal fleets.
Sharks: ICCAT did implement a measure to protect silky sharks, and it is now required to release alive any silky sharks that are accidentally caught, but no other shark species received further protection.
In summary, from the position statement that IGFA submitted, ICCAT took some action to curtail IUU fishing, but no action was taken to manage fishery stocks in a manner different than on the basis of Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY). Managing fisheries at MSY is excessively risk-prone, and IGFA would prefer to see fisheries managed at Optimum Yield, where economics and conservation are given more weight.
International Game Fish Association