Canada to Meet and Decide on Fate of Atlantic Bluefin Tuna at International Meeting | Ecology Action Centre

Canada to Meet and Decide on Fate of Atlantic Bluefin Tuna at International Meeting

Shark Conservation Measures Also To Be Decided

Cape Town, South Africa – November 18, 2013

Bluefin Tuna by Richard HerrmannLast year, Canada was the primary proponent for an increase in western Atlantic bluefin tuna quota at the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT), despite a domestic process to review this tuna species for listing under Canada’s Species At Risk Act (SARA). Canada and the other 46 ICCAT members will meet this week in Cape Town, South Africa to decide on the quotas for the 2014 fishing year, as well as shark management measures and decreasing illegal fishing for ICCAT fisheries.

“We were dismayed at Canada’s position last year. Fishing more quota and endangered species status for the same species simply do not go hand in hand,” said Katie Schleit, Marine Campaign Coordinator at the Ecology Action Centre based in Halifax, Nova Scotia. “We’re optimistic, however, that they won’t do the same thing again this year. Canadians really care about Atlantic bluefin and are expecting the government to do the right thing for the future of the bluefin population, which can only benefit Canadians in the future.”

Canadian scientist designated Atlantic bluefin tuna as endangered in 2011. The assessment by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC), found that the Canadian population has declined by 69% in less than 45 years with overfishing as the largest threat to population recovery. A preliminary decision whether or not to list the species is expected from the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans in 2014.

ICCAT scientists determined that the western population of Atlantic Bluefin has declined to 36% of 1970 levels and while recent assessments are starting to show a reverse in this decline, in 2012 and 2013 ICCAT scientists recommended that quotas be maintained at 1750 metric tonnes as the best way to ensure that the population continues to grow.

But bluefin tuna management is not all that’s at stake this year.  Proposals will also likely be tabled on needed protections for porbeagle, shortfin mako and blue sharks, as well as a measure requiring countries to land sharks with their fins attached. Such measures have been tabled, but not approved at past ICCAT meetings, with Canada often objecting.

The Ecology Action Centre is particularly concerned with porbegale sharks, often called Canada’s shark, since the population in the West Atlantic spends much of its life in Canada’s waters. The shark’s precipitous decline to only 20% of its 1961 population brought about an endangered designation. Canada has led the world on porbeagle research and the government’s own predictions show that even without fishing this shark will take decades to recover.  In March 2013, porbeagle sharks were included in Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.

“In the last three years, Canada has been the only country to ask to be exempted from a measure proposed by the European Union to protect porbeagles across the Atlantic. Now that there is no longer any directed fishery for porbeagle sharks in the Maritime’s region, we hope that Canada will think differently about blocking international consensus on porbeagle protection.”
The Ecology Action Centre will be attending the meeting for the fourth year in a row as the only Canadian NGO to attend as an observer. While other countries including the United States and the European Union allow conservation organizations on their official delegations, Canada only includes government staff and fishing industry representatives.

Supporting Documents:

EAC Recommendations to the 23rd Regular Meeting of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT)
-November 14, 2013


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 47 members.
The 2013 management advice from ICCAT scientists for western Atlantic bluefin tuna shows that maintaining catch at current levels of 1,750 metric tonnes (MT) 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 (COSEWIC) that advises the Species at Risk Act and the International Union on the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). There is only 12-15% of the breeding stock left.
The Ecology Action Centre (EAC) 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.

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