Leaves Shark Protections Behind Again
November 25, 2013
Cape Town, South Africa –The 23rd Regular Meeting of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas, or ICCAT, concluded today in Cape Town, South Africa. Canada and the other ICCAT contracting parties fishing for western Atlantic bluefin tuna agreed to maintain to the quota within scientific advice, at 1750 metric tonnes, for the 2014 fishing year. Contracting parties also agreed to keep the quota the same, at 13,400 metric tonnes, for the eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean. However, ICCAT failed again, to agree to protections for sharks.
Bluefin tuna quotas held for 2014
“We are pleased that ICCAT parties, including Canada, decided to hold the line on western bluefin tuna for another year,” said Katie Schleit, Marine Campaign Coordinator at the Ecology Action Centre based in Halifax, Nova Scotia who is attending the meeting as the only Canadian civil society group. “They made the right decision for the benefit of the species and the fishery. Under proper management, there is hope that the stock will rebuild.”
Maintaining the quota at the level agreed upon by ICCAT parties is expected by ICCAT scientists to allow western bluefin tuna populations to continue to increase. Concerns were raised by environmental groups leading up to the meeting that Canada requested a higher quota at ICCAT last year, at the same time that western Atlantic bluefin tuna population is at just 36 percent of the 1970 levels and is undergoing review for listing on Canada’s Species at Risk Act, or SARA. The independent science body responsible for advising the federal Environment Minister under SARA assessed Atlantic bluefin tuna as endangered in 2011. A decision on listing is expected in mid-2014.
“We look forward to further action by Canada to rebuild this stock through national measures, regardless if it is listed or not,” said Schleit. “Next year, ICCAT parties will come together to renegotiate a quota based on a new scientific assessment. Once more, the fate of the species will depend on parties agreeing not to increase fishing pressure above scientific advice.”
No progress on sharks
For the fourth year running, Canada was one of a few countries blocking a measure that would prohibit porbeagle shark from being retained on fishing vessels. This species is often called Canada’s shark, as it spends the majority of its time in the country’s waters. Canada reported almost 40 tonnes of porbeagle bycatch last year, with the majority caught in the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certified Atlantic Canadian swordfish longline fishery.
“We find the lack of support by Canada on this issue disappointing,” said Schleit. “Not only did the country close its directed fishery for porbeagle in 2013, but Canada also voted to list the vulnerable shark on Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Flora and Fauna, or CITES. These actions clearly show recognition of the need for conservation. Canada and other parties’ repeated inaction at ICCAT is only adding to the expected hundred year rebuilding period for porbeagle.”
Other proposals to protect sharks also failed to be adopted by ICCAT, including one that would require sharks be landed with their fins attached to their bodies and one to establish catch limits for shortfin mako sharks.
Katie Schleit, MMA
Marine Campaign Coordinator
+27 (82) 5023999 (in Cape Town)
Susanna Fuller, PhD.
Marine Conservation Coordinator
902-483-5033 (in Halifax)
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 46 countries and the European Union.
The 2013 management advice from ICCAT scientists for western Atlantic bluefin tuna shows that maintaining catch at current levels of 1,750 metric tonnes, or lower would be expected to protect the 2003 year class, allow the spawning biomass to increase, and allow scientists to develop a clearer understanding of the population growth and recovery trajectory.
ICCAT scientists consider porbeagles one of the most vulnerable sharks. Porbeagle sharks are assessed as endangered by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada that advises the Species at Risk Act and the International Union on the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). There is only 12-15 percent of the breeding stock left.
The Ecology Action Centre is Atlantic Canada’s oldest and largest environmental organization, celebrating 40 years of action in 2011. 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.