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IP/08/1768

Brussels, 25 November 2008.

Fisheries: Commission satisfied with ICCAT decisions to save bluefin tuna

The European Commission is pleased with the consensus reached yesterday by the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna (ICCAT) meeting in Marrakech, Morocco, to strengthen decisively the fifteen-year recovery plan for Eastern bluefin tuna, to protect endangered porbeagles in the Atlantic and to reduce the fishing season on Mediterranean swordfish. Through a combination of substantially reduced fishing opportunities, shorter fishing seasons, ambitious new control measures, and a landmark agreement on controlling both fishing and farming capacity, there will be an immediate and significant reduction in fishing pressure on the fragile bluefin tuna stock. The total allowable catch (TAC) for 2009 has been reduced to 22 000 tonnes, as compared to 28 500 tonnes in 2008, and will be decreased further to 19 950 tonnes in 2010 – a reduction of 30% over two years. Subject to an early reassessment of the stock in 2010, it is also envisaged to further reduce the TAC to 18 500 tonnes in 2011. These catch limits will be backed up by a four-month reduction in the fishing season for the purse seine fleet. In a separate decision, ICCAT also established a systematic peer-review system to assess the compliance of all its members, with the power to impose rapid and effective sanctions. Both these recommendations were adopted on the basis of proposals tabled jointly by the EU, Japan and a majority of the Mediterranean coastal states.

European Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Joe Borg commented, “We need tough action to secure the future of the bluefin tuna stock, and ICCAT’s revised recovery plan demands further sacrifices from the fishing industry, with major immediate cuts in catch levels and fishing seasons, and reductions in both fishing and farming capacity to follow. It is a sign of the seriousness of the situation, and the maturity of all the participants, that it has been possible to achieve a consensus on these steps with the support not only of a vast majority of the ICCAT members, but also of the EU member states and stakeholders. What’s more, the revised plan will not simply reduce fishing pressure on the stock drastically, it also defines mechanisms for control throughout the marketing chain, and closes many outstanding loopholes. Together with the new peer-review compliance procedure, we now have the tools to make sure that 2009 is the ‘Year of Compliance’ for all ICCAT members involved in this fishery.”

The main elements of the revised recovery plan, besides the immediate reduction in TAC, are:

  • Reduction in the fishing season by 4 months for purse seiners (15 April-15 June).
  • Fishing capacity shall be immediately frozen at 2007-2008 levels, followed for the first time by a plan to reduce it to bring into line with national quotas.
  • Farming capacity in 2009 must not exceed the maximum authorised annual input over the period 2007-2008, and in subsequent years the capacity will be further reduced.
  • An ICCAT regional observer project will be established to ensure 100% observer coverage for all purse seiners over 24 metres, all purse seiners involved in Joint Fishing Operation, and during all transfers to and harvesting from cages.
  • Video records of fishing and farming operations made by operators must be made available to observers and inspectors.
  • Market measures are strengthened, in particular by banning import and export operations for all bluefin tuna for which there is no quota, either at national or individual vessel level.
  • National fishing plans to ensure fishing effort is limited in line with quota, and all boats over 24 metres will be allocated individual quotas.
  • Specific quotas for sports and recreational fisheries, counted against national quota, and subject to catch reports.
  • A rigorous framework for the control of Joint Fishing Operations.
  • The removal of the minimum size derogation for pelagic trawlers in the Atlantic, and a reduction in the general minimum size derogation.
  • Transshipment at sea will be prohibited. Transhipment will only be possible in designated ports.
  • Tuna may not be transferred to farms without prior authorisation of the flag state of the catching vessel.

The new compliance system will provide all ICCAT members with the opportunity to present their compliance record for review and comment by all members of the organisation. Failure to comply with a range of essential conservation and management measures, including undeclared overshooting of quota, failure to provide catch and farming reports by agreed deadlines, and lack of meaningful monitoring, verification and enforcement measures, may lead to the immediate suspension or reduction of quota. Non-compliance with farming and fattening measures may lead to a marketing ban.


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