Several times I have posted updates on the fate of the Bluefin Tuna, particularly those populations that have been heavily fished in the Atlantic and Mediterranean seas. The two organizations that could have an impact internationally on how bluefin tuna fisheries are managed are CITES and ICCAT.
In early October, I reported that scientific groups, including ICCAT's own advisers had recommended a severe cutback in the catch quota as the population was on the brink of collapse, having shrunk by more than 85%.
"Many countries turn to the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna (ICCAT) for guidance regarding commercial limits but their quotas have often fallen short of levels recommended by many research groups, showing a bias towards the commercial tuna fishing industry. But that may be changing."
I was wrong.
According to a press release from Oceana, the ICCAT has just approved a catch limit of 13,500 tons for next year:
"'The risk of collapse has already been addressed in previous assessments, and there is scientific consensus about what's happening right now. [The proposed quota] is not sufficient to recover the stocks and it will lead to individual vessel quotas that are too low to economically sustain fishing activities. This will definitely encourage underreporting of catches and illegal fishing, said Xavier Pastor. He added: 'ICCAT has now definitely lost its credibility and its CITES' turn to avoid the collapse of this species.'"
This means we must turn our attention to the next major CITES meeting in March to see if it will list Bluefin Tuna as an Appendix I endangered species, as has already been proposed by at least one CITES member nation. This listing would mandate a complete cessation of commercial bluefin tuna fishing.
Also mentioned in the Oceana press release, ICCAT apparently took little if any action regarding limiting the take of certain shark species:
"'Sharks are being caught without any limit at all in the Atlantic, and there is little hope now for getting these fisheries regulated in the near future,' said Rebecca Greenberg, shark campaigner with Oceana. 'ICCAT scientists recommended that mortality for shortfin mako be reduced years ago, and the Commission still has not done anything to implement this. ICCAT is ignoring the advice of its own scientists, and dooming species to overfishing and imminent stock collapse.'"
Despite the scientific data, ICCAT appears to be an organization dedicated to preserving a floundering industry rather than a floundering marine species. It's sad that they can't seem to live up to their own namesake.
Read the Oceana press release.