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Statement on Conclusion of ICCAT Meeting

Contact:
Jennie  Lyons
(301) 427-8013
(202) 603-9372 (Cell)
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
November 19, 2014

Learn more about recent International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) meeting in Genoa, Italy.

The 19th Special Session of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) ended today, with some of the U.S. goals approved. 

“We made important steps towards improving the sustainable management of our fisheries,” said Russell Smith, U.S. ICCAT Commissioner.  “Unfortunately, there were also a number of important issues that we weren’t able to reach agreement on.”

Management of the two stocks of bluefin tuna in the Atlantic Ocean dominated the discussion at this year’s meeting. This year ICCAT members increased the total allowable catch for the western Atlantic stock, on which the U.S. fleet fishes, by 250 tons to 2000 tons. The new catch level takes into account the increased population, while allowing the stock to continue to grow.  Scientists say allowing for stock growth will help answer important questions about the population and improve management advice in the future.

ICCAT members also decided to increase the total allowable catch for the bluefin tuna stock in the eastern Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea. Notably, the increase, about 73% during a three-year period, is significantly greater than the increase adopted for the western stock.

“We are very concerned that the level of the increase agreed to for the eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean stock could set back efforts to rebuild the stock,” said Mr. Smith. 

In addition to adopting measures for the management of skipjack tuna in the eastern Atlantic, ICCAT also adopted a number of measures that will allow for better monitoring to combat Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated fishing. These included U.S.-sponsored measures that will require large vessels to report their location more frequently and provide capacity building support for developing countries implementing ICCAT measures for port inspection. ICCAT also continued to improve the process under which compliance with the various management measures adopted by the Commission is evaluated.

Unfortunately, U.S.-supported measures to protect porbeagle sharks, combat shark finning, and protect marine mammals from harm caused by fishing gear and practices were not approved. However, one adopted measure will allow the Commission to gather more information on shortfin mako sharks to support development of management measures for their future protection.

ICCAT will meet in Malta in November 2015.

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BACKGROUND:

Until recently, the eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean bluefin tuna stock was subject to significant overfishing due to poor management decisions that ignored scientific advice in favor of elevated harvest levels as well as significant Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated fishing. Over the last few years, management measures that more closely follow scientific advice as well as enhanced efforts to stop Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated fishing are showing promise in allowing this stock to begin to rebuild. Recent analyses concluded that stocks are seeing important size increases on both sides of the Atlantic. However, these analyses also noted that there are still many unanswered questions about these stocks.