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Brussels, 6 November 2009

Fisheries: opening of crucial meeting of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT)

Tomorrow will see the opening of the Annual Meeting of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) in Recife, Brazil. Key issues on the table for the EU are how to ensure the recovery of Atlantic bluefin tuna, in particular by reducing the total allowable catches (TAC) and fishing capacity, the strengthening of compliance with ICCAT rules and the adoption of the right science-based measures for all fish stocks. The EU wants to ensure that, beyond bluefin tuna, the other stocks that need attention receive it and that the right conservation measures are adopted so as to ensure the sustainability of the related fisheries.

The Council endorsed a solid mandate for the Commission to negotiate on behalf of the EU at this year's ICCAT meeting. European Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Joe Borg declared:

“Despite the efforts made by European fishermen and the progress achieved, the state of bluefin tuna requires more efforts. ICCAT needs to grasp the nettle this year. Scientific advice needs to be strictly followed as regards bluefin tuna and all other concerned fish stocks. Total allowable catches should be reduced accordingly, and fishing overcapacity must be effectively addressed. Tough decisions are ahead of us but that is the price to pay to ensure the future of the fisheries concerned. The EU will fully play its role as a major player in this fishery”.

For Eastern bluefin tuna, ICCAT adopted last year in Marrakesh a revised 15-year recovery plan, including reduced fishing seasons, a programme to cut fishing capacity and an unprecedented set of control measures. However, the latest advice from the ICCAT Scientific Committee reiterates the need for lower total allowable catches. Moreover, capacity management plans by ICCAT countries have to be discussed for approval at the next ICCAT meeting, as foreseen in the Marrakesh recovery plan. The follow-up of the special meeting of the ICCAT Compliance Committee last March in Barcelona will also be ensured in Recife. For other fish stocks of major importance, including bigeye tuna, Atlantic and Mediterranean swordfish and North Atlantic albacore, multi-annual management plans are scheduled to be reviewed or established. Certain plans, like the one for North Atlantic swordfish, have proven to be successful, but further adaptations are required in light of the latest scientific information. Furthermore, the examination of compliance with ICCAT rules for these species should be as thorough as the one for bluefin tuna obligations.

On sharks, in line with its commitment in the EU's Action Plan for Sharks, the EU will push for ambitious protection measures. In particular this year, the EU will table proposals for measures to ensure the protection of porbeagle and thresher sharks.

This year's ICCAT Annual Meeting will run from 7 to 15 November. ICCAT is an inter-governmental fishery organisation responsible for the conservation of tunas and tuna-like species in the Atlantic Ocean and its adjacent seas. It was created in 1966, and currently has 51 members. For more details, see

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