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EU Voices Concern as IATTC Fails to Adopt Robust Tuna Conservation Measures

Lucy Towers
22 February 2017, at 12:00am

EU - The EU has said it is concerned by IATTC's failure to adopt a robust, science-based conservation measure for tropical tuna in the Eastern Pacific Ocean.

A last-minute agreement reached last week applies a catch limit for certain fisheries in 2017, but falls short of what is needed to guarantee long-term sustainable management of tuna stocks. Moreover, despite EU support for a plan to reduce fleet overcapacity in the region, capacity continues to increase.

The extraordinary annual meeting of the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC) ended on 10 February in La Jolla, California. The meeting was exclusively dedicated to adopting a multi-annual conservation plan on tropical tuna in the Eastern Pacific Ocean, which previous meetings in July and October 2016 had failed to do.

In order to ensure sustainable fisheries in the region, scientists had recommended closing the fishing for big-eye tuna and yellowfin tuna for 87 days. The EU supported this proposal, but a majority of IATTC members considered this measure unacceptable.

Instead, IATTC decided only to set a global catch limit for big-eye tuna and yellowfin tuna caught through fish aggregating devices (FADs), and a limit for yellowfin tuna for dolphin-associated fisheries. No limits were imposed on other fisheries, which will continue to be regulated by the current 62-day closure – despite sharp catch increases in this fishery.

This solution is less than satisfactory: it risks encouraging 'Olympic-fisheries' (a race to catch fish), and is difficult to implement and control. Moreover, this measure will only apply in 2017, with little regard for the long-term management of the stocks concerned.

The EU appeals to all IATTC parties to work towards adopting a more robust measure, addressing management and conservation for all stocks and fisheries, at the annual meeting in July 2017. The EU also encourages IATTC to finally agree on a capacity management plan to address fleet overcapacity and to take measures to limit the number of FADs used in the region.