Marrakech, Morocco, November 25, 2008 – The commission tasked with protecting Atlantic bluefin tuna has once again failed to save the species, according to World Wildlife Fund. The International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) decided to ignore its own scientists’ recommendations, setting catch quotas well above sustainable levels and allowing industrial fishing fleets to capture tuna at the height of its spawning period. Other avenues, beyond ICCAT, must now be explored in order to protect bluefin tuna.
At this week’s meeting in Marrakech, Morocco, ICCAT endorsed a total allowable catch (TAC) of 22,000 tons for next year, completely disregarding the recommendations from its own scientific committee, which had recommended a TAC ranging from 8,500 to 15,000 tons per year, warning there were real risks of collapse at any TAC above 15,000.
“Over the past decade ICCAT has stood by while catches have reached up to four times the scientific recommendations. This is unacceptable and WWF has little choice but to look elsewhere to save the fishery from itself,” said Mark Stevens, senior fisheries officer for World Wildlife Fund, speaking from Marrakech.
WWF officials noted that the U.S. initially had responded to the independent committee’s scientific findings by submitting a strong proposal. But as other co-sponsor nations came under strong pressure from the European Commission not to support lower catch limits, including allegations of threats of trade retaliation, the U.S. gave in and joined the consensus. As a result, the final ICCAT plan allows not only higher than recommended TAC of bluefin, but industrial fishing during the spawning season, when bluefin congregate in huge numbers and are most vulnerable to the impacts of overfishing.
“ICCAT’s string of failures leaves us little option but to seek effective remedies through trade measures,” said Stevens. “WWF will actively push for a listing under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora [CITES] in the hope that stringent trade controls tied explicitly to the survival of the species will turn around the half-hearted attempt at fisheries management shown here by ICCAT.”
Notes to Editors:
- The world’s largest bluefin tuna trader, Mitsubishi, signaled earlier in November that it would “reassess” its “involvement in this business” should ICCAT continue to be unable to sustainably manage the fishery.
- CITES next meets in Doha, Qatar in January 2010.
More information is available at www.panda.org/tuna; interviews, images and b-roll available by request.