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Bluefin tuna capture. (Photo: Greenpeace)

Bluefin tuna TAC growth disappoints environmentalists

  (WORLDWIDE, 11/23/2017)

Conservation organisation WWF has expressed deep concern about the decision taken by the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) to "drastically increase" catch quotas for bluefin tuna, considering the recovery of the stock of this resource is not confirmed yet.

The 50-nation Commission agreed to hike the quota from 24,000 tons this year to 28,000 next year, with a further 4,000 tons added in each of the following two years.

ICCAT decision means the quota has more than doubled from five years ago, when once depleted stocks of bluefin tuna first started showing the potential of a recovery.

"We have been able to decide a gradual increase of captures, by staying careful. And we are staying within the scientific advice," Stefaan Depypere, the head of the European Union delegation said in an interview.

However, environmentalists agree with WWF and insisted the advice was more ambivalent and were bitterly disappointed since they maintain that the recovery of the bluefin is still too fragile to permit such major increases in fishing quotas.

"This year was an enormous step backwards for sustainable tuna fisheries," said Paulus Tak of the Pew Charitable Trusts.

"WWF is angered that ICCAT has chosen short-term economic profit when we had hoped for a long-term conservation victory" declared Alessandro Buzzi, Fisheries project manager at WWF.

WWF fears that the ICCAT scientific committee’s weak and confusing advice may have led ICCAT to go for this drastic quota increase this year and asks the scientific committee to improve its methodology in order to deliver robust and clear scientific advice in the future.

"We have been fighting for the last 10 years to save bluefin tuna, we are so near recovery that it is a scandal to see ICCAT going back to business as usual; this could jeopardize all the progress we've made," Buzzi pointed out.

On the other hand, WWF welcomes the adoption of harvest control rules for North Atlantic albacore but expresses disappointment about the lack of progress made to improve the fate of shortfin mako shark, blue shark and tropical tuna populations.

Nevertheless, the NGO recognizes that the adopted plan for North Atlantic mako could be a positive first step, but only if nations implement the plan's measures in 2018 and start the process of rebuilding the stock in 2019 as agreed in the plan.

WWF is very concerned that no decisions were made to stop overfishing of tropical tuna, undermining the current plans for bigeye tuna and yellowfin tuna, not respected by nations.

Therefore, WWF urges for the adoption of global best practices to reduce FAD-related juvenile mortality and bycatch and asks for more observers on long liners and for strong control on all at-sea trans-shipment, to fight illegal fishing.

Related articles:

- CEPESCA deems ICCAT recommendations for bluefin tuna disappointing
- WWF warns ICCAT on bluefin tuna quota increase consequences


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