WWF: Science does not support any increase in bluefin tuna quotas
“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.
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WWF asks of ICCAT 2013
• 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.
Notes to the editor
If we were to name an iconic species of the Mediterranean sea, it would no doubt be the Atlantic bluefin tuna, one of the biggest and one of the most commercially valuable fish in the world. Precisely for this, it has been heavily overfished for decades and the victim of widespread illegal fishing, especially in its main spawning grounds across the Mediterranean. The millennia-old bluefin tuna fishery in the Mediterranean entered a phase of rapid and intense deterioration the last decade of the 20th Century when the new practice of farming wild-caught tunas, formerly unknown in the Mediterranean, mushroomed without control. This generated a perverse overfishing spiral as the growing demand for live large tunas fuelled the massive development of the industrial purse seine fleets and their expansion over virtually all Mediterranean waters where the bluefin tuna gathered to reproduce.WWF was first to warn about this new threat and since 2001 has led the international campaign to avoid the collapse of the bluefin tuna population and to ensure a rational and sustainable fishing activity.