Record attendance at ICCAT special meeting –

Record attendance at ICCAT special meeting Published:  20 November, 2012

The 18th special meeting of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT), which was opened to a record attendance of 43 contracting parties and four cooperating non-contracting parties, entities or fishing entities, also attracted seven non-contracting parties, five intergovernmental organisations and 25 non-governmental organisations.

The expectations arising from the Standing Committee on Research and Statistics (SCRS) findings of  possible improvement in the east Atlantic and Mediterranean stocks of bluefin tuna constituted one of  the major incentives to the over 500 meeting participants, but other issues such as billfish, shark management and compliance performance were also high priorities for the commission. 

With all eyes on ICCAT, the commission said it had lived up to its recent commitment to act responsibly by heeding the advice of its scientific community and maintaining bluefin tuna quotas at levels which  would allow sustainable growth and recovery of the stock, and at the same time strengthening the  control mechanisms in place.

The commission also committed to the Atlantic-wide Research Programme for Bluefin Tuna (GBYP),  with measures proposed to ensure steady funding for this programme. Although the complexities of  the issue required the final decision of the funding mechanism to be deferred until 2013, parties undertook to continue the research through voluntary contributions. 

Billfish species were back on the agenda following the white marlin stock assessment in May 2012,  and the new management plan set clear limits on landings of blue marlin, white marlin and spearfish. 

South Atlantic swordfish measures were prolonged for a further year as stocks are due to be assessed  in 2013.

Also up for discussion were several species of sharks, which resulted in the strengthening of existing conservation management measures as well as a plan for future work, in cooperation with other organisations as necessary, to develop a coordinated approach to the management of shark species in the ICCAT Convention area.

Monitoring, surveillance and control (MCS) measures were given special attention, with the adoption of improved port state measures in order to close all doors to any illegal Atlantic tuna catches and improved measures relating to at-sea transhipment. A time-frame was determined for the final implementation of the electronic bluefin catch document scheme, and an inter-sessional meeting convened to develop, among other things, the framework for future traceability systems with a view to having new systems in place by 2015.

Despite the increasing complexity of ICCAT conservation and management measures – with a staggering 101 reporting requirements for many contracting parties in addition to the implementation of MCS measures – the compliance committee noted a considerable improvement in  compliance with management measures in 2012, with only seven of the contracting parties being identified as having some compliance deficiencies of serious concern. Recognising that even this number is too high, greater efforts will be made in 2013 to facilitate the submission of data and other required information.  In 2012, ICCAT spent around 222,000€ in assistance to developing states for capacity-building activities. These funds have been used to facilitate participation in meetings, training workshops, sampling and observer programs, and to recover historical logbook data.

In addition to existing funds, a further 150,000€ has been pledged for 2013 from the working capital fund, in addition to voluntary contributions, to ensure continued participation of developing states at ICCAT meetings and sustain the commission’s policy of inclusiveness. 

An ICCAT spokesperson said 2013 promised to be another full year for the Atlantic tuna agenda, with the implementation of the ICCAT Regional Observer Programme for bigeye and yellowfin tuna (ROP-TROP), the switch to the electronic bluefin catch document scheme scheduled for the start of the bluefin purse seine season and the implementation of the new measures.

In addition to an inter-sessional meeting of the working group on integrated monitoring measures, a joint panel 2/compliance committee meeting will be held to review the members’ bluefin management  plans.

Other meetings include a West Atlantic bluefin tuna working group and a meeting of the working group on the future of ICCAT. The next annual meeting of ICCAT will be held in Cape Town, South Africa between 16 and 26 November 2013. Other inter-sessional meetings will be held throughout the year; detailed venue information can be found as it becomes available in, under “Meetings”.