Tuesday, November 30, 2010

ICCAT & Tuna: "extraordinary" meeting - depends on who you ask

One final report on ICCAT (International Convention for Conservation of Atlantic Tuna) and the conclusions from its recent annual meeting: the future of bluefin tuna in 2011. As reported earlier, bluefin tuna - particularly Atlantic and Mediterranean tuna - are on perilously shaky ground. ICCAT currently limits its members to a catch quota of 13,500 tons of tuna. This past weekend in Paris, ICCAT set a new level for next year: 12,900 tons - a reduction of only 600 tons or 4 percent.

In ICCAT's press release, the meeting was described as "extraordinary."

Here is how the AAAS (American Association for the Advancement of Science) summed it up:

"At its annual meeting last year, ICCAT decided to set catch levels so that bluefin tuna would have at least a 60% chance of recovering by 2022. In October, ICCAT's scientific advisory committee reported that this goal could be met by keeping annual catch limits at the current level of 13,500 tons. Improving the chances of recovery, they added, would require cutting catch levels to below 6000 tons. On Saturday, ICCAT member countries agreed (pdf) to a 12,900-ton ceiling for eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean bluefin tuna."

Here is how Oceana, who was in attendance to promote a range of tuna, billfish, turtle, and shark conservation measures, described the meeting's conclusions:

"While ICCAT reduced the allowed catch for eastern Atlantic bluefin tuna to 12,900 tonnes, this four percent reduction is almost laughable. Furthermore, ICCAT failed completely to take action to establish spawning ground sanctuaries, a basic and much-needed management measure. Oceana supports a closure of the bluefin tuna fishery until a system is in place that follows scientific advice on catch levels, ensures stock recovery, stops illegal fishing, and protects spawning areas in the Gulf of Mexico and Mediterranean Sea.

'This trivial quota reduction for the eastern bluefin tuna stock is a political decision, not a science-based one,' said Maria Jose Cornax, fisheries campaigns manager for Oceana. 'Without an industrial fishing closure, it actually encourages illegal fishing and fails to ensure stock recovery. This political outcome is not good for the fish or the fisherman, and will certainly result in further stock depletion.'”

Analogous to ICCAT and the economic interests it protects, is the energy/fossil fuel industry. Oil companies could break the back of our fossil fuel addiction in relatively short order with a major commitment and shift to alternative energy sources. They could dominate that new market as surely as they dominate oil and the environment would probably be the better for it in the end. But their focus is primarily on sustaining current business models with just enough token support in alternative energy so as to appear as if they are forward-thinking. They know what the future holds in store but choose not to fully address it.

ICCAT is following the same path, sustaining a dying fishing industry at the expense of dwindling marine species. Conservation groups, to their credit, will continue to pressure ICCAT to reconsider its fundamental strategy of minimal change for the sake of short-term financial goals. But what will it take? An empty sea?

Read the ICCAT press release.
Read the AAAS Science
article on the ICCAT meeting.
Read Oceana's
article on the ICCAT meeting.

No comments: