Through a combination of substantially reduced fishing opportunities, shorter fishing seasons, ambitious new control measures, and a landmark agreement on controlling both fishing and farming capacity, there will be an immediate and significant reduction in fishing pressure on the fragile bluefin tuna stock.
The International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna (ICCAT) agreed, at a meeting in Marrakech, to reduce the total allowable catch (TAC) for 2009 has to 22,000 tonnes, as compared to 28,500 tonnes in 2008. This will be decreased further to 19,950 tonnes in 2010 – a reduction of 30 per cent over two years.
Subject to an early reassessment of the stock in 2010, it is also envisaged to further reduce the TAC to 18 500 tonnes in 2011. These catch limits will be backed up by a four-month reduction in the fishing season for the purse seine fleet.
European Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Joe Borg commented: “It is a sign of the seriousness of the situation, and the maturity of all the participants, that it has been possible to achieve a consensus on these steps with the support not only of a vast majority of the ICCAT members, but also of the EU member states and stakeholders. "
The main elements of the revised recovery plan, besides the immediate reduction in TAC, are:
- Reduction in the fishing season by four months for purse seiners (15 April-15 June).
- Fishing capacity shall be immediately frozen at 2007-2008 levels, followed for the first time by a plan to reduce it to bring into line with national quotas.
- Farming capacity in 2009 must not exceed the maximum authorised annual input over the period 2007-2008, and in subsequent years the capacity will be further reduced.
- An ICCAT regional observer project will be established to ensure 100 per cent observer coverage for all purse seiners over 24 metres, all purse seiners involved in Joint Fishing Operation, and during all transfers to and harvesting from cages.
- Video records of fishing and farming operations made by operators must be made available to observers and inspectors.
- Market measures are strengthened, in particular by banning import and export operations for all bluefin tuna for which there is no quota, either at national or individual vessel level.
- National fishing plans to ensure fishing effort is limited in line with quota, and all boats over 24 metres will be allocated individual quotas.
- Specific quotas for sports and recreational fisheries, counted against national quota, and subject to catch reports.
- A rigorous framework for the control of Joint Fishing Operations.
- The removal of the minimum size derogation for pelagic trawlers in the Atlantic, and a reduction in the general minimum size derogation.
- Transshipment at sea will be prohibited. Transhipment will only be possible in designated ports.
- Tuna may not be transferred to farms without prior authorisation of the flag state of the catching vessel.