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Tuna Protection Increases With Electronic Catch Data


EU - At the end of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) meeting, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has expressed disappointment at the insufficient measures adopted to improve the traceability of bluefin tuna.

It was hoped that this year’s meeting of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) would see countries adopt a comprehensive plan to protect Mediterranean swordfish, as well as take steps to ensure the full traceability of bluefin tuna from ocean to plate – but only half measures have been agreed.

WWF welcomes the bringing into force of an electronic catch documentation scheme for Mediterranean bluefin – obliging fleets, tugboats, tuna fattening farms and national authorities to log all catches digitally instead of the current highly imperfect paper-based system. A pilot scheme will run in 2012.

WWF says that without an improvement in the provision and accuracy of data on tuna being transferred into the many fish farms that line the Mediterranean – processing the majority of tuna caught in this sea – the measure falls far short of what is required.

Steps were put in place to allow for a Mediterranean swordfish recovery and management plan to be established by 2013. These include the obligation for countries to provide complete data on catches and fleet size, as well as scientific information on the species.

This new collection of swordfish data should allow ICCAT’s scientific committee to carry out an improved assessment of the swordfish stock and fishery in 2013 – as well as assess overcapacity. This should in turn pave the way for a necessary fishing fleet reduction plan, similar to the one currently in force for Mediterranean bluefin tuna.

Meanwhile, serious allegations of illegal bluefin tuna fishing by foreign fleets in Libyan waters during the country’s unrest in the 2011 fishing season attracted heated discussion at the Istanbul meeting. ICCAT members have committed to carry out research in 2012 on this issue, which WWF will closely scrutinise.

A commitment to improve science also emerged this year, with members agreeing on the need to strengthen the quality of scientific advice developed by ICCAT’s own scientists. External experts will be invited to participate in fish stock assessments, and for the first time peer reviewing of ICCAT’s science will also be introduced.

ICCAT members meeting in Istanbul have also agreed on a fundamental ‘no data, no fish’ principle whereby unless countries provide requested data on each fishery, they cannot send boats out to catch that fish again the following year.

Protection measures were also introduced for silky sharks – recently ranked the most vulnerable of all Atlantic shark species. The silky shark is a frequent victim of accidental catch in several ICCAT fisheries, and countries are now obliged to release this species if caught in fishing nets and other gears.

The next stock assessment – and potential amendment of species recovery and management measures – for the East Atlantic and Mediterranean bluefin tuna, ICCAT’s headline species, will take place at the 2012 annual meeting.