ICCAT increases bluefin tuna catch quotas, protects sharks and adopts catch strategy


The International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) approved increases in the total allowable catch (TAC) for bluefin tuna and bigeye tuna at its annual meeting, which ended on Tuesday 23 November.

ICCAT is the regional fisheries management organization (RFMO) responsible for the conservation of tuna and tuna-like species in the Atlantic Ocean and adjacent seas, including the Mediterranean. ICCAT fisheries managers have agreed to increase the Atlantic bluefin tuna TAC for the west Atlantic coast from 376 MT, or 16 percent, from 2,350 MT to 2,726 MT, as the The 2021 West Atlantic bluefin tuna stock assessment estimates that the total biomass increased by 9 percent between 2017 and 2020. This was a reversal from the 2020 meeting, when discussions were turning. around the reduction of the total allowable catch. The TAC for the East Atlantic is unchanged. The total quota for Atlantic bluefin tuna for 2022 will be 3,483 MT.

The Japan Fisheries Agency said the country’s quota in the western Atlantic will increase by 257 metric tonnes (MT) from the previous year, up from 407 MT, while that for the eastern part remains at 2,819 MT. . However, the figures for Japan may be reduced as the United States and Canada use allocations of up to 25 and 15 MT, respectively, for bycatch in longline fisheries near the limit of the fishing zone. management. While other parties have fixed allocations, Japan’s is adjusted based on the share of US and Canadian bycatch used.

Excluding adjustments for these allocations, the allocations for the West Atlantic are: United States, 1316 MT; Canada, 543 tonnes; Japan, 664 MT; United Kingdom (via Bermuda), 6 MT; France (via St. Pierre et Miquelon), 6 MT; and Mexico, 149 MT. These last three countries have the option of transferring part of their quota to Canada (in the case of Mexico and France) or to the United States (in the case of the United Kingdom) for the purposes of scientific studies.

Bigeye tuna stocks also recovered and the total allowable catch increased from 500 MT to 62,000 MT, but the Japanese quota remained the same at 13,980 MT.

Mako shark protectors

ICCAT fisheries managers previously agreed that in 2022 and 2023 any retention of shortfin mako sharks (Isurus oxyrinchus) will be banned in the North Atlantic. The ban will apply even to dead sharks when brought on ships – these must be wasted in order to avoid giving an economic incentive to capture them.

However, the European Union, which took 74% of the North Atlantic mako shark catches in 2020, insisted on including a formula for provisional mortality to determine whether limited retention in certain fisheries could be allowed at it. ‘to come up. From 2023, ICCAT scientists will examine the possible retention of a limited amount of dead shortfin mako sharks and identify options for the closure of fisheries in certain areas or times and the adoption of other measures. mitigation of bycatch, provided they do not adversely affect the recovery of the species. .

Shannon Arnold, marine program coordinator for Ecology Action Center, a non-profit environmental organization based in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, said the move was critical to preserving populations of mako sharks in the Atlantic. .

“We commend Canada, the United Kingdom, Senegal and Gabon for leading the charge in providing this historic and scientific protection for endangered mako sharks. We are celebrating this crucial milestone today, aware that the fight to strengthen it begins tomorrow. It is clear from these negotiations that the EU remains focused on relaunching operations as soon as possible, ”said Arnold. “To avoid the shenanigans and flashbacks in 2024, we need even more countries at the table to strike back with the same vigor to rebuild the population. . “

The shortfin mako shark and closely related shortfin mako shark (Isurus paucus) are listed by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature as threatened with global extinction. Subsequent listings in Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) require countries to demonstrate that mako exports come from legal and sustainable fisheries. The new measure asks scientists to examine trends in catches of longfin mako, which remain unprotected outside US waters.

Other environmental NGOs also announced the ICCAT decision, including The Shark Trust and Shark Advocates International, which coordinate with the Ecology Action Center through a coordination group called The Shark League. World Wildlife Fund fisheries project director Alessandro Buzzi said the ban is the first rebuilding program for a species of shark or ray ever adopted by a regional tuna-focused fisheries management organization .

ICCAT did not limit catches of shortfin mako sharks from the South Atlantic, but agreed to allocate a total catch limit for blue sharks from the South Atlantic from 2022. A proposal to strengthen a ban on ICCAT finning by banning the harvesting of fins at sea has been blocked by Japan.

Albacore Harvest Strategy

ICCAT has adopted a comprehensive catch strategy for North Atlantic albacore. It was the first time that ICCAT had approved a comprehensive operating strategy. Harvesting strategies provide pre-established frameworks for fisheries management decision-making, shifting the RFMO’s perspective from short-term responsive decision-making to longer-term goals, according to Grantly Galland, principal agent of Pew Charitable Trusts for international fisheries.

“In particular, the adoption of its first comprehensive operations strategy marks the start of a new era for ICCAT with a move towards transparent and inclusive management,” he said. “ICCAT and other RFMOs should replicate this success by immediately adopting similar strategies for other commercially important stocks such as bluefin tuna, tropical tunas and swordfish.

Other measures

WWF Buzzi also welcomed the adoption by ICCAT of a recovery plan for Mediterranean albacore, classified as overexploited, and the decision to address what it called “existing weaknesses” in the system. control of bluefin tuna, in particular with regard to farming activities.

“In addition, the adoption of new measures to strengthen the monitoring of transhipment activities is a positive step towards the fight against illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing and the illegal trade in tuna, sharks and fish. other pelagic species, ”said Buzzi. “WWF regrets that the ICCAT parties have decided to increase fishing quotas for bigeye tuna when the stock has just started to rebuild. [It] also decided to reduce the closure of fish aggregating devices from three months to 72 days, increasing the risk of catching juvenile bigeye and yellowfin tuna.

DCPs had been a priority for another NGO, the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation.

“Improved management measures for the use of fish aggregating devices (FADs) in tuna fisheries are continually at the top of our list of RFMO ‘requests’,” said Holly Koehler, vice president of policy and management. the awareness of the ISSF. “Our call to ICCAT this year was no different. While the commission did not make substantial progress on FADs which met our demands – the use of biodegradable materials, as well as FAD recovery policies, marking systems and ownership rules, among others. – we are pleased that the provisions relating to FADs in the measurement of tropical tuna have been maintained.

Koehler said his group will continue to push for ADF reform at the next ICCAT annual meeting. “Overall, there is still a lot of work to be done on the management of DCPs at ICCAT in 2022.”

Photo courtesy of ICCAT


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