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Bluefin tuna protected - but what about the sharks?

The Ecologist

25th November 2013

ICCAT, the Atlantic tuna commission, sets science-based bluefin tuna catch quotas in the Mediterranean - but fails to protect for vulnerable sharks, or clamp down on rule breakers.

The EU, represented in the meeting by European Fisheries Commissioner Maria Damanaki, strongly backed respect for science.

After years of mismanagement, ICCAT followed for the first time last year the scientific recommendations and set an annual quota at 13,400 tonnes for bluefin tuna fisheries in the East Atlantic and Mediterranean.

In spite of the lack of a new assessment this year, there was strong pressure from several countries to increase the quota, disregarding scientific advice. The EU, represented in the meeting by European Fisheries Commissioner Maria Damanaki, strongly backed respect for science. Proposals to increase the quotas were finally discarded.

Progress was also made on the traceability of farmed tuna. A WWF study, Bluefin tuna farming growth rates in the Mediterranean, highlighted the potential to hide unreported 'black' catches, and asked ICCAT member countries to come up with a technical solution. ICCAT has just adopted a common procedure based on stereoscopic images that promise to close this important loophole.

"WWF congratulates ICCAT member countries for sticking to science again this year regarding bluefin tuna quotas in the East Atlantic and Mediterranean, said Dr Sergi Tudela, Head of Fisheries at WWF Mediterranean.

"This is a good sign for the credibility of ICCAT. However, failure to address countries' failure to comply with rules remains an issue of grave concern"

He is "particularly disappointed" at the failure of ICCAT member countries to effectively address compliance issues. A WWF report last year uncovered a gigantic scandal of almost 20,000 tonnes of unreported bluefin tuna mostly traded to Japan.

An investigation by Panama endorsed WWF's findings of likely fraud in reporting tuna catches and movements. But other producer countries in the Mediterranean and Japan explicitly rejected any further investigations.

ICCAT's performance on sharks at this year's meeting in Cape Town was also poor. A proposal to strengthen the current ban on shark finning by obliging boats to land sharks with fins naturally attached was defeated by Japan, China and Korea. Protection of the endangered porbeagle shark was opposed by Canada.



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