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Tuna trap net fisheries. (Photo: OPP, atunalmadraba/FIS)

Environmental groups celebrate tuna protections, worry about sharks left behind

WORLDWIDE
Tuesday, November 20, 2012, 23:50 (GMT + 9)

Environmental groups congratulated the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) for following scientific advice and not increasing Atlantic bluefin tuna quotas. At the 18th Special Meeting of ICCAT, the 48 Contracting Parties agreed on annual fishing quotas of 13,500 tonnes for 2013.

Dr Sergi Tudela, Head of Fisheries of the World Wildlife Fund- (WWF) Mediterranean, urged decision-makers to continue this trend of listening to scientific advice into the future, to allow the East Atlantic and Mediterranean stock of Atlantic bluefin tuna to recover.

“The bluefin tuna story illustrates how joint efforts to drive change can save even the most hopeless of fisheries from collapse,” he said.

Prior to the meeting, the Scientific Committee determined that for the first time in 10 years, the East Atlantic and Mediterranean stock of bluefin tuna showed signs of an upswing. But scientists recommended that the stock be given more time to recover before quotas are increased again.

On the other hand, green groups chastised ICCAT for not addressing issues of illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing with enough vigor.

The Pew Environment Group agreed with the WWF in this respect.

“While there was progress toward putting in place an electronic system to track bluefin tuna, it is disappointing that ICCAT only made limited progress in overall efforts to stop illegal fishing,” said Susan Lieberman, director of international policy at the Pew Environment Group.

Oceana voiced its concerns regarding the lack of new steps to protect threatened highly migratory species of sharks, and a failure to strengthen compliance with existing regulations.

“The outcomes of this meeting reflect a baffling, contradictory approach within ICCAT,” Maria José Cornax, Fisheries Campaign Manager for Oceana Europe, stated. “ICCAT is much more than bluefin tuna. ICCAT must remove its blinders and look beyond this one fish, to the many other stocks for which it is responsible.”

Only one out of seven proposals was adopted to strengthen threatened shark management. The proposed measures included one from the US to fortify ICCAT’s shark finning ban, which would have required that all sharks be landed with their fins still attached, an increasingly popular approach. A similar measure will be voted on by the European Parliament in Strasbourg this week.

Endangered porbeagles and shortfin makos are of special concern, with the latter being fished commercially without any limits or management in place.

The EU’s proposal to protect porbeagles was not adopted because of opposition by Canada, the one ICCAT member that runs a commercial fishery for the species, while the measure to set catch limits for shortfin makos was fiercely opposed by Japan, China and Korea.

“Canada’s refusal to stop targeted and opportunistic fishing for porbeagle sharks has once again prevented Atlantic-wide protections for this threatened species,” said Shannon Arnold, Marine Programme Coordinator for the Halifax-based Ecology Action Centre.

Sonja Fordham, president of Shark Advocates International, encouraged the US and the EU to keep working toward the protection of mako sharks.

Related article:

-
ICCAT decides to help conserve Atlantic bluefin tuna

By Natalia Real
[email protected]
www.fis.com


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