THE annual meeting of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) closed its doors in Genoa (Italy) today, having failed once again to look beyond Eastern Atlantic bluefin tuna.
For this stock, ICCAT Contracting Parties (CPCs) approved 20 per cent annual increases in catches over three years (reaching 23, 155 t in 2017), an agreement welcomed by Oceana because it falls within scientific limits and reflects incipient stock improvements.
In addition, Oceana has strongly denounced ICCAT’s failure to manage the rest of species for which it is responsible, especially sharks and Mediterranean swordfish.
Maria Jose Cornax, Fisheries Campaign Manager for Oceana Europe, stated: ‘ICCAT has finally fulfilled its obligation to properly manage bluefin tuna, which was so heavily overexploited in the past.
‘But at what cost? Parties have traded off species, sacrificing sharks and swordfish – fish that urgently need management and are equally important for the livelihoods of coastal communities that depend on ICCAT fisheries.
‘If ICCAT learned anything from its historic near-disaster with bluefin tuna, it should realise that delaying management of other species will inevitably come at a cost.’
The European Union tabled a proposal to end the unacceptable practice of shark finning (ie, removing shark fins at sea and discarding the bodies) by requiring all sharks to be landed with their fins naturally attached.
This was the sixth time in a row that ‘fins-attached’ was discussed in ICCAT, and it was supported by more countries than ever before, with 14 CPCs officially co-sponsoring this year’s proposal.
Many CPCs already implement fins-attached in their national fisheries, including Belize, Brazil, Chinese Taipei, the European Union and USA, which combined represent more than 75 per cent of reported shark catches in the Atlantic Ocean.
However, the proposed measure was once again blocked by a minority group led by Japan and China. A similar fate met EU proposals for protection of highly threatened porbeagle sharks and catch limits on shortfin mako sharks.
Oceana also regrets the continuing inaction by ICCAT Contracting Parties on Mediterranean swordfish. The stock has been recognised as being overfished for more than a decade now, yet ICCAT has repeatedly refused to take necessary action and the stock remains without a recovery plan.
Dr Ilaria Vielmini, Marine Scientist with Oceana in Europe added: ‘Swordfish catches have declined across much of the Mediterranean Sea and the fishery is clearly unsustainable, with juvenile fish now representing 75 per cent of catches.
ICCAT cannot keep turning deaf ears to these alarm signals, by accepting overfishing as the status quo for Mediterranean swordfish.’