Advocating for Sustainability

Quite simply, what we need is a sensible management plan for the Atlantic bluefin tuna that doesn’t drive the species to extinction. By following sound science and reducing the capacity of industrial fleets, governments can avoid the demise of one of the most magnificent fish that swims the ocean.

The main body responsible for managing Atlantic bluefin tuna is the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT). The commission was formed in 1969 in response to fears that Atlantic bluefin tuna populations would crash.

Despite close to 40 years of ICCAT’s existence, populations have continued to decline. This is due to management problems caused by ICCAT and national governments.

After decades of decline and 13 years of intense lobby work and campaigning, WWF has been instrumental in getting ICCAT to reach measures including:
  • a decrease in quotas from 32,000 tonnes in 2006 to 12,900 tonnes in 2010
  • a minimum landing size matching the size at maturity for the species
  • an open season for purse seine fleets of just one month a year
  • an ICCAT Regional Observer Programme (ROP)
  • a Catch Documentation Scheme (the BCD)
  • a fleet capacity reduction plan and a Scheme of Joint International Inspection
WWF’s vision for the East Atlantic and Mediterranean bluefin tuna fishery is that of a stock sustainably managed to the benefitof marine ecosystems, fisheries communities and consumers.



WWF asks of ICCAT 2013

WWF calls on ICCAT to maintain Atlantic bluefin tuna catches at the levels agreed last year.

Great progress was made last year on the East Atlantic and Mediterranean bluefin tuna stock when decision makers agreed for the first time on an annual quota based on science. Current scientific advice is based on the same assessment carried out in 2012, as no new stock assessment was carried out this year. For this reason the ICCAT Scientific Committee (SCRS) advises in 2013 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.

“Any irresponsible increase this year in bluefin tuna quotas for the East Atlantic and the Mediterranean by the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) could jeopardize the timely recovery of the species. WWF calls on ICCAT not to increase the tuna quota until it is based on the results of a new scientific assessment – no increase in quotas can be done against science”, said Dr Sergi Tudela, Head of the Mediterranean Fisheries Programme at WWF.

WWF's specific asks on Atlantic bluefin tuna (East Atlantic and Mediterranean)

• No increase of the TAC above the 2013 level (13,400t).
• Review and strengthen the current fishing capacity reduction plan to bring real catch capacity down to the level of fishing possibilities.
• Radically reform the current quantification and traceability of fish from the catching purse seine vessels and throughout the farms.
• Fully support ICCAT SCRS in its endeavor to developing a new methodology and gathering new data leading to a much more reliable and robust stock assessment in 2015.


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What is ICCAT?

ICCAT stands for the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna and currently has 42 member nations. Its primary responsibilities are to provide internationally coordinated research on the overall condition of highly migratory species in the North Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea, and to recommend regulatory and management measures to maintain all highly migratory tunas and billfish at their most productive levels.

The Commission conducts annual meetings, usually in November or December, to analyze statistical data and recommend management measures. Scientific advice is provided by the Standing Committee on Research and Statistics (SCRS).

Member nations agreed to implement ICCAT recommendations domestically within six months; however they often do not.
  •  / ©: WWF Mediterranean