The conservation organization calls for not increasing bluefin tuna quotas this year.
“ICCAT’s strengthening of bluefin tuna management in recent years could already be giving positive signs in the East Atlantic and the Mediterranean. Therefore, we need to secure the recovery trend by strictly implementing the current management measures until a new stock assessment is carried out by the ICCAT Scientific Committee,” said Dr Sergi Tudela, Head of the Mediterranean Fisheries Programme at WWF.
Current scientific advice is based on the assessment carried out in 2012, as no new stock assessment for the East Atlantic and Mediterranean bluefin tuna stock was carried out this year. The ICCAT Scientific Committee (SCRS) advises against any substantial change in the current quota and specifically notes that maintaining catches at the levels agreed last year (13,400 tons) will likely allow the stock to fully recover by 2022.
“Disregarding the science would bring ICCAT back to the dark years, when bluefin tuna management by this organization was called a “travesty of management. WWF calls on ICCAT not to increase the tuna quota until it is based on a new scientific assessment,” added Tudela.
One of the main loopholes that remains to be solved is the traceability of farmed bluefin tuna. A recent WWF study shows that the current catch documentation scheme (BCD) fails to adequately trace the origin and initial biomass of fish at catch, which might result in substantial over-quota catches.
“We need to urgently ensure the accurate quantification of fish caught and caged in farms in order to close the door to unreported catches,” said Dr Susana Sainz-Trapaga, Fisheries Officer, WWF.
Measures targeting fleet overcapacity are crucial for the success of the current recovery plan. The SCRS expresses its concern about current fleet capacity levels which would still allow catches well in excess of the current quotas.
The 23rd regular annual meeting of ICCAT will take place from Nov 18-25 in Cape Town, South Africa. WWF will closely follow the discussions and decisions related to the Atlantic bluefin tuna fishing quotas and other management measures that will shape the future of one of the most iconic fishes worldwide.