The Bluefin tuna fishery is regulated by the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) to which the EU is a contracting party. Important control measures have been adopted to standardize the control of live fish at the point of caging into farms and to establish a protocol to release fish in excess, internationally as well as in in EU waters.
The 2015 Bluefin tuna season for large vessels, purse seiners, will run from 26 May to 24 June. Those vessels, which catch the fish alive for farming purposes, share 61% of the total EU quota. The traps fishery (20% of the EU quota) and the line vessel fishery started earlier this year. 8 EU member states are involved in the Bluefin Tuna fishery (Cyprus, France, Greece, Croatia, Italy, Malta, Portugal and Spain).
Continuous cross-checking is undertaken by the European Commission to ensure that measures are fully respected by all Member States involved, concerning the fishing seasons, the quotas and the new control measures. The Commission also deploys its own inspectors and carries out spot checks at critical moments and in particular at the time of caging into the farms.
Based on the benchmarks set up in the Specific Control and Inspection Programme (SCIP) adopted in 2014, a Joint Deployment Plan (JDP) for the control of the Bluefin tuna fishery for 2015 has been adopted by the European Fisheries Control Agency (EFCA).
As in previous years, the plan brings together the European Commission, Member States and the EFCA, and draws on the resources of the eight EU Member States involved in the fishery.
Total Allowable Catch (TAC) (for all ICCAT members): 15.821 tonnes.
EU 2015 quota: 9,372.92 tonnes.
EU total fleet: around 910 vessels and 12 traps.
Member states actively involved in the fishery: Cyprus, France, Greece, Croatia, Italy, Malta, Portugal, Spain.
Fishing period for the purse seiners: 26.05.2015-24.06.2015.
Main actors in the control: EC, EFCA, Member states.
Member States Control means: around 30 fishery patrol vessels and 11 aircrafts.
EU control means: Control missions: 200 days of fishery patrol vessel activity, 70 days of land inspections, and 100 hours of air surveillance.
The ICCAT Recovery Plan
The International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) is an inter-governmental fishery organization responsible for the conservation of tunas and tuna-like species in the Atlantic Ocean and its adjacent seas. The EU is represented as one of the 49 Contracting parties in ICCAT.
In 2006, ICCAT adopted a 15-year Recovery Plan for Bluefin Tuna in the Eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean. The Plan addressed concerns raised by the Scientific Committee, notably an excess of fishing capacity and a lack of compliance with ICCAT measures. The ICCAT Recovery Plan entered into force on 13 June 2007 and was strengthened in 2008 and again in 2009.
In November 2010, a reduction of the fishing allocation for Bluefin Tuna was agreed and the control and inspection policy for all fishing activities was reinforced. ICCAT also assessed the compliance of inspections, capacity and fishing plans for the 2011 Bluefin tuna fishing campaign.
In November 2012, the ICCAT Recovery plan was amended with a slight increase of the overall TAC to 13.400t as of 2013, with an EU quota of 7.548t compared to 5.756t in 2011 and 2012. Further measures were adopted to strengthen a set of control aspects and the one month fishing season for purse seiners in the Eastern Atlantic and the Mediterranean was postponed by ten days.
During the 2013 ICCAT Annual Meeting, new rules were agreed for the use of stereoscopic cameras when live Bluefin tuna are caged into farms. The overall total allowable catch (TAC) has not been modified but the EU quota for 2014 rose to 7.939 tonnes due to the inclusion of the Croatian quota of 390,6 tonnes.
During the ICCAT Annual Meeting held in November 2014, ICCAT adopted a reinforced multi-annual recovery plan for Bluefin tuna. Based on the positive outcomes of BFT stock assessment of the ICCAT Scientific Body (SCRS), ICCAT endorsed a 60% increase of the Bluefin tuna (BFT) Total allowable catch (TAC) over the next three years. Consequently, the EU quota rose from 7,938.65 t in 2014 to 9,372.92 in 2015 which corresponds to an increase of 20%. The most important control measures adopted relate to the control of live fish at the point of caging, procedures to release fish in excess and the treatment of dead fish during transfer operations at sea.