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ICCAT Adopts Conservation Measures for Key Marine Species

November 19, 2012

White marlin being tagged and released by a scientist, as part of a research project off the coast of Virginia.


2012 annual ICCAT meeting, Agadir, Morocco.


Atlantic bluefin tuna.  Photo Credit: Large Pelagics Research Center.

The International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) concluded its annual meeting today in Agadir, Morocco with significant advances that will combat Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing and support the rebuilding of bluefin tuna and marlin stocks.  With leadership from the United States, ICCAT was able to:

  • Adopt conservation measures that support the long-term sustainable management of western Atlantic bluefin tuna.  Among other things, we agreed to do more research on the biology of this iconic species in order to improve our ability to manage it.  Consistent with scientific advice, we extended the catch limit for western Atlantic bluefin tuna through 2013 to ensure continued stock growth.  Management measures were also adopted for the eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean stock that will support its recovery and strengthen monitoring and control, including improvements to the operational aspects of the high seas boarding and inspection scheme.

  • Adopt, for the first time, country-specific quotas for landings of blue marlin and white marlin.  These quotas will significantly reduce the number of fish that may be caught and follow scientific advice.  The marlin rebuilding plan also includes an Atlantic-wide recreational minimum size equal to that of the United States, a ban on sale of recreationally-caught marlins, and measures to improve data collection in artisanal fisheries.

  • Improve the monitoring of ICCAT fisheries by adopting a strengthened set of minimum standards for port inspections and an at-sea transshipment measure that closes compliance loopholes.  We also agreed to begin using the new electronic bluefin tuna catch documentation program in May 2013, and to start work, under a U.S.-Japan proposal, to consider modernized catch certification schemes for other tunas and tuna-like species.  These tools are critical to ongoing efforts to fight IUU fishing and level the playing field for U.S. fishermen.

  • Thoroughly review whether parties are complying with existing obligations. ICCAT’s Compliance Committee is chaired by the US.

  • Agree on a process for amending the 1969 ICCAT Convention so that it is in line with modern principles of fisheries management –- and clarifies the Commission’s authority to manage certain stocks, including some sharks found in ICCAT fisheries.

“We are pleased to have made progress on improving the management of ICCAT’s fisheries” said deputy assistant secretary for international fisheries, Russell Smith, “although we still have a lot of work to do to ensure that all of ICCAT’s species are well-managed.”

In addition, the United States, Belize and Brazil again proposed a requirement that all sharks caught in ICCAT fisheries be landed with fins naturally attached.   While not adopted, international support for this approach is building.

The positions advanced by the United States at ICCAT called for a precautionary approach and international standards to strengthen fishery monitoring and reporting in all ICCAT fisheries.  The newly agreed measures will support the long-term sustainability of ICCAT stocks across international fisheries, to the benefit of U.S. fishermen.   

What is ICCAT? 

The International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) is one of many Regional Fisheries Management Organizations (RFMOs), where countries and fishing entities come together to discuss and develop international fisheries management measures. 

ICCAT oversees the conservation and management of a variety of Atlantic marine species, including tunas, swordfish, marlin and sharks, and adopts measures to minimize bycatch of turtles and seabirds associated with these fisheries.  This responsibility is shared among ICCAT’s 48 members, including the United States.