International Tuna Meeting Offers Canada an Opportunity to be a Leader in Fisheries Management

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, November 10, 2015

[ST. JULIAN’S, MALTA] – This week, Canada will be among 49 countries and the European Union attending an international meeting to discuss the management of highly migratory fish species, such as tuna and swordfish. The 24th Regular Meeting of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) begins today in Malta, and the decisions made here will affect how these fisheries are managed throughout the Atlantic and Mediterranean.

For the sixth year in a row, the Halifax-based environmental organization, Ecology Action Centre (EAC) is attending ICCAT as observers and EAC is the only Canadian civil society group in attendance.

Management of Atlantic bluefun tuna is a big focus at ICCAT - the western population which swims through Canadian waters is at 55% of its 1970’s population levels, at which point the species had already been fished extensively. In 2014, ICCAT increased the quota for western Atlantic bluefin to 2000 metric tonnes for the 2015 and 2016 fishing years. This was done in spite of the fact that the population has not yet fully recovered, and is currently undergoing listing as an endangered species under the Canadian Species At Risk Act.

EAC’s Marine Campaign Coordinator Katie Schleit thinks ICCAT has an opportunity to do things differently this year. "Governments tend to wait until fish populations are in a dire state before taking concrete steps to put in place sustainable management measures aimed at rebuilding the population,” says Schleit. “However, there are existing fisheries management tools that can set specific decision rules for fishing activities – which allows immediate action at the first sign of trouble and also minimizes politically motivated decision making. Canada has an opportunity to be a leader in these discussions as such strategies already exist for other Canadian fisheries.” 

Sharks are caught in many of the fisheries managed by ICCAT and will also be discussed this week. Of the species that are caught in these fisheries, shortfin mako, blue and porbeagle sharks are some of the most prominent “bycatch” species. This year, the EAC is hoping to see decisions made to adopt:

·         science-based limits to restrict total numbers of sharks that may be caught as, there are currently no limits enforced by ICCAT,

·         a ban on retention of the endangered porbeagle shark – frequently referred to as Canada’s shark – in order to facilitate its recovery, and

·         measures to prevent shark finning by requiring that all sharks be landed with their fins naturally attached to their bodies.

“In past years at ICCAT, we’ve seen Canada as one of the countries preventing actions to further protect porbeagle sharks and reduce the loopholes to prevent shark finning. We’re hoping that will change this year as part of the wave of change from the new government.”

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Recommendations to the 24th Regular Meeting of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT)

Recommandations pour la 24e réunion ordinaire de la Commission internationale pour la conservation des thonidés de l'Atlantique (CICTA)


For further information, please contact:


Katie Schleit

Marine Campaign Coordinator

+1-902-488-4078 (in Malta)


Heather Grant

Marine Communications Campaigner

+1-902-449-7640 (in Halifax)


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