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Brussels, 16 November 2009

Fisheries: Commission welcomes ICCAT’s decisive action to save bluefin tuna and other marine species

Yesterday the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna (ICCAT), which met near Recife, Brazil, adopted a number of new multi-annual management plans which align fishing opportunities with the latest scientific opinions. The European Commission is particularly satisfied with the consensus reached on the recovery plan aimed at Eastern bluefin tuna, whose total allowable catch (TAC) for 2010 has been reduced to 13 500 tonnes (as compared to 22 000 tonnes in 2009). This will be accompanied by drastic cuts in fishing capacity. ICCAT also approved additional management measures for Mediterranean swordfish which will, on the one hand, reinforce the protection of juvenile fish through more stringent closure of fishing activities at the end of the year and, on the other, foresee the adoption of a long-term management plan at the 2010 ICCAT meeting on the basis of up-to-date scientific advice.

Once again this year, bluefin tuna has been high on the agenda of the ICCAT meeting. ICCAT agreed on strict new conservation measures to help the recovery of the bluefin tuna stock. In addition to the quota reduction to 13 500 tonnes for 2010, the fishing season for purse seiners will be reduced to only one month in the year (between 15 May and 15 June). This shorter season can no longer be extended in case of bad weather conditions. As an additional precautionary measure, it was that agreed that, if in the course of 2010 scientists were to detect a serious risk of stock collapse, the fishery for Eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean bluefin might be suspended completely. Also in 2010, following a new and up-to-date scientific assessment, ICCAT will adopt catch levels offering a high probability of allowing the species to rebuild.

Fishing capacity, i.e. the size of the fishing fleet, will have to contract in future years so as to be commensurate with future quota allocations.

All these measures stem from proposals tabled by the EU which received broad support and were adopted by consensus at yesterday's plenary session.

European Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Joe Borg is confident that “this unprecedented set of concrete and ambitious steps will mark decisive progress in managing and conserving this migrating stock in the Mediterranean and the Atlantic. Our goal is to ensure the return to a healthy bluefin tuna stock and a viable and sustainable fishery for our fleet. Admittedly, ICCAT had a very tough task this year, but it has certainly risen to challenge.”

Throughout the meeting, ICCAT extensively reviewed and discussed also the issue of compliance and control. The EU was warmly congratulated by the Parties for the control activities carried out in the course of 2009 under the framework of the Joint Deployment Plan. Thanks to a number of EU proposals, several new control measures were introduced:

  • new mechanisms were adopted which will enable ICCAT to better evaluate the Parties’ control efforts;

  • a new reporting format for inspections at sea will improve the efficiency of the inspections carried out under the ICCAT International Scheme of Inspection;

  • a new point-based sanction scheme was introduced for those Contracting Parties which do not respect ICCAT obligations;

  • additional meetings of the Compliance Committee and a “special” meeting dedicated to control in early 2010 will follow up on the various technical aspects of enforcement and compliance;

Others species:

  • On swordfish in the Mediterranean : Substantial progress was made in the conservation and management of this species, as noted earlier ( MEX/09/1112 ).

  • On sharks : Out of the three proposals presented by the EU (namely on thresher sharks, on porbeagle and on shortfin mako), only the first one reached the necessary consensus for adoption by the ICCAT Commission: this proposal calls for an effective prohibition of the landings of bigeye thresher shark, coupled with the commitment on the part of the Parties of not undertaking directed fisheries for all species belonging to the same genus.

  • On seabirds : Regrettably, an additional proposal from the EU which would have strengthened the current recommendations to reduce by-catches of seabirds did not reach a consensus. The EU will continue to urge ICCAT to register progress in the protection of seabirds as early as 2010.

On the whole the European Commission is satisfied with the outcome of the annual ICCAT meeting, and is looking forward to working constructively with the other Contracting Parties and with stakeholders over the course of the next year. For the next annual meeting in 2010, the Parties have accepted an EU proposal to host the event in Paris.

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