Genoa, Italy – November 17th, 2014. The 19th Special Meeting of the International Commission on the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna (ICCAT) concluded today in Genoa, Italy. This year, Canada and the other ICCAT contracting parties who fish for western Atlantic bluefin tuna agreed to increase the quota for the 2015 and 2016 fishing years. ICCAT members also raised the quota for the eastern stock for the 2015, 2016 and 2017 years.
Risky Quota Increases
“We are disappointed in the outcome of this year’s ICCAT meeting,” said Katie Schleit, Marine Campaign Coordinator at the Ecology Action Centre in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and who is attending the meeting on behalf of the only Canadian civil society group to be observers. “We have just begun to see signs of the beginning of recovery in the western bluefin population. As there is a great deal of scientific uncertainty involved, it is risky, premature and short-sighted to increase fishing pressure on the population. We do not want to see a reversal of the progress that has been made.”
The quota for the western population of bluefin tuna was increased from 1750 to 2000 tonnes for the 2015 and 2016 fishing years. For the eastern population, the quota will be raised approximately 20% a year from 13,400 tonnes for the next three years.
The western population of bluefin tuna, which frequent the waters of Atlantic Canada, is still at just over half of 1970’s levels. The population was already viewed as depleted at that time. It has also been assessed as endangered by a Canadian scientific body and is undergoing review for listing under Canada’s Species at Risk Act (SARA).
“These tuna are in a precarious state. While Canada claims to be committed to the precautionary approach, which requires that they exercise caution when scientific information is uncertain, they directly contravened any commitment to precaution at ICCAT this year by agreeing to a quota increase,” explains Schleit. “Equally disappointing was the lack of transparency during quota negotiations. We think that Canadians deserve to know what their government is advocating for on their behalf.”
Failure on Sharks
The porbeagle, known as Canada’s shark, was also ignored at this year’s meeting. For the 5th year in a row, Canada was one of a few countries preventing a measure that would prohibit the endangered porbeagle from being retained on fishing vessels. While Canada tabled a proposal this year, it likely would not have had any significant impact on the recovery on the species and as a result was not accepted by those seeking stronger measures.
“We’re frustrated by Canada’s decision to not support a measure that would reduce porbeagle mortality,” stated Heather Grant, also attending the meeting for the Ecology Action Centre. “The directed fishery for this shark was closed in 2013 so their inaction at ICCAT is disappointing, particularly as porbeagle was assessed as endangered again this year. Bycatch in ICCAT fisheries is still one of the largest threats to the species, whose population’s recovery is estimated to take up to a hundred years.”
Canada also did not support a measure to land all sharks with their fins attached, considered best practice to ensure that shark finning is not occurring, and members did not agree to place a limit on the amount of shortfin mako sharks that can be fished in the ICCAT area.
“At a time when there is unprecedented change happening in our oceans, and when more than ever before, we understand the implications of not adhering to conservation based fisheries decisions, we are deeply frustrated and dismayed to see that ICCAT members seem to be headed back down the path of risky or non-existent management measures” said Schleit. “We hope we don’t see this trend continue at future meetings.”
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Marine Communications Campaigner
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Notes to Editors:
ICCAT is an inter-governmental fishery organization responsible for the conservation of tunas and tuna-like species in the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean composed of 49 members.
ICCAT scientists consider porbeagles one of the most vulnerable sharks. Porbeagle sharks were re-assessed as endangered by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) that advises the Species at Risk Act in 2014, ten years after they were first assessed as endangered.
The Ecology Action Centre (EAC) is Atlantic Canada’s oldest and largest environmental organization. The Marine Issues Committee of the Ecology Action Centre works locally, nationally and internationally towards conserving and protecting marine ecosystems and maintaining sustainable fisheries and vibrant coastal communities.