In order to prevent a reverse of the good progress being made so far in recovering Atlantic bluefin tuna stocks, the Pew Charitable Trusts is calling for the catch limits to not be increased.
Science-based catch limits have so far shown that eastern bluefin tuna numbers have increased significantly but it is too early to tell, and there is no scientific consensus, to show that increasing the quota will not harm the recovery so far.
Scientists at the Standing Committee of Research and Statistics (SCRS) of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) noted that maintaining or gradually and moderately increasing the quota would not harm the recovery. However, they were unable to agree on how much of an increase the eastern bluefin populations could withstand in 2015 without jeopardising rebuilding.
“Pew’s fundamental concern is that management decisions for 2015 are made in a precautionary manner, so the recovery of this population can be fully realised,” said Amanda Nickson, director of global tuna conservation for The Pew Charitable Trusts.
“It was only five short years ago that this population was in real trouble. It would be utterly irresponsible and out of line with the scientific advice to raise the quota by 70 per cent in one year, as some countries are already demanding.”
Dr Sergi Tudela, Head of Fisheries at WWF Mediterranean added: “Extraordinary efforts have been made in recent years by ICCAT and stakeholders which have led to the beginning of the recovery of Eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean bluefin tuna. But we need to stay vigilant – without clear and robust traceability, years of efforts to recover the most iconic species of the world’s oceans risk being undermined.”
There is also concern over the affect that uncontrolled illegal fishing is having on the eastern bluefin tuna population, as it is taking the amounts fished far over the allowed quota. A recent study estimated that the actual catch is a huge 57 per cent above quota.
The EU has yet to enforce an electronic tracking system which would help curb illegal fishing, despite being supportive in its development.
The Pew Charitable Trusts is therefore concerned that the EU's support seems to be wavering as, without the system, the recovery of tuna populations will be stalled.
The most critical question, said The Pew Charitable Trusts, is what the EU will say and do about the Atlantic bluefin tuna at the ICCAT meeting in November 10-17 in Genoa, Italy.