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ICCAT Meeting Closes

EU - On Saturday 27 November the annual meeting of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) closed, with a precautionary total allowable catch (TAC) of 12,900 tonnes set.

"This year's meeting of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) has produced results which represent a step in the right direction for sustainable management of bluefin tuna and other species. This is important not just for ICCAT waters and stocks, but for fisheries management globally, and for the EU as a whole," said EU Commissioner Maria Damanaki.

"ICCAT has agreed on a reduction of the catches of bluefin tuna for the next year. Moreover, the new allocation key agreed has allowed the EU to maintain its share in the fishery, which is good news for our fishermen and industry, and reflects the leading role the EU has played towards the recovery of this stock.

"This year, ICCAT has also emphasised the importance of control and compliance procedures, which are crucial to our long-term success. The EU will continue to work with those countries that are not fully compliant to ensure that they fulfil their obligations.

"Our work does not end with this meeting, however. The EU will continue to work hard to ensure the long-term sustainability of bluefin tuna, sharks and all the other sensitive stocks managed by ICCAT," Ms Damanaki said.

The 12,900 quota will be reviewed again in 2012. This will give the fishery stability in the short term, while enhancing the chances of achieving a full recovery of the stock within the timeframe set.

The allocation key was slightly modified, by the transfer of quota from Algeria to Libya and Turkey. Turkey and Libya have also committed to much closer cooperation on inspection and monitoring. The EU quota remains unaltered.

The control provisions of the BFT recovery plan were significantly strengthened, in order to close loopholes and tighten procedures even further. With one small exception, Joint Fishing Operations are now prohibited; VMS data must now be transmitted continuously throughout the fishing campaign, even when vessels are in port; and observers are mandatory on tugs, and on purse seiners below 20 metres in length, which were previously exempt.

An EU-proposed recommendation on electronic catch documents for bluefin was also adopted, which will considerably simplify control and traceability in this fishery.

There is no change in the EU Payback schedule that was agreed in Marrakesh.

Lack of significant progress on swordfish stocks and other tuna species, in particular bigeye tuna, illustrates how bluefin tuna continues to drain the attention and energy of ICCAT, leading to a neglect of equally or even more serious conservation and compliance issues elsewhere.

The Commission particularly regrets that other ICCAT members did not support the introduction of meaningful control and implementation measures as part of its proposal to extend the time-area closure for bigeye tuna in the Gulf of Guinea. The Commission therefore decided to go for a limited rollover of current measures instead, with the intention of coming back strongly on this issue next year.

The Commission hopes that with stable, science-based measures on bluefin in place for the next years, it will now be possible to refocus ICCAT's attention on the many other stocks which it has under its care, and that we will be able to achieve for them a similar degree of precautionary management and effective control and monitoring.

the Fish Site Editor

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