ICCAT takes timid steps to conserve bluefin tuna, shark and swordfish

The annual meeting in Turkey of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT), composed of governments of fishing nations involved in the Mediterranean tuna fishery, has agreed a set of measures intended to improve conservation of fish resources.

Concerning bluefin tuna, in an effort to improve traceability and prevent illegal fishing, ICCAT decided to implement an electronic documentation scheme obliging all catches to be digitally logged, replacing the paper based system.

The measure was welcomed by WWF, but the NGO stated that it was only a “half measure” as it did not include data on fish transfers to tuna ranches, which allowed for the “laundering of illegal, unregulated and unreported catches”. A recent Pew report found that in 2010, the amount of Mediterranean bluefin tuna traded surpassed the ICCAT quota by 141 percent.

This year bluefin tuna quotas – often the subject of intense negotiation – were not up for discussion.

ICCAT also voted to increase protection for silky sharks, a species vulnerable to overfishing and threatened by the shark fin trade. Silky sharks accidentally caught in fishing gear will have to released back into the sea alive.

On swordfish, ICCAT agreed a set of measures, including a 90cm minimum landing size and requirement to provide catch data and fleet information in order to assess the stock. The body plans to draw up a recovery plan for the species in 2013.

ICCAT will be organising a meeting next year to discuss the recently reported allegations that illegal fishing for bluefin tuna took place in Libyan waters this year during the civil conflict.

Julie Cator

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