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ICCAT countries fail again to adopt measures for the conservation of tropical tuna in the Atlantic.

Commenting on the conclusion of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) meeting, that closed its door yesterday in New Cairo (Egypt), WWF expresses its strong regret about the failed adoption of long-overdue measures for the conservation of tropical tunas.

Alessandro Buzzi, Tuna Manager at WWF Mediterranean Marine Initiative said: 

“On World Fisheries Day, It is disappointing to see that polarized positions of Contracting Parties have, once again, blocked the adoption of management measures that are crucial for tropical tuna. We continue to call on all Parties to put the long-term sustainable exploitation of the stock before individual short-term interests.”

The ongoing dispute among ICCAT Contracting Parties on the allocation of total allowable catches (TACs) for bigeye tuna blocked the possibility of adopting a long-overdue package of conservation and management measures for tropical tuna. WWF is particularly concerned about the impact that this delay will have on yellowfin tuna, whose landings have constantly exceeded the limits in the last four years, and in 2022 were almost 35% above TACs.

ICCAT was the first regional fisheries management organization (RFMO) to adopt proper management measures for blue sharks and a rebuilding programme for shortfin mako sharks in recent years. While WWF acknowledges that further important steps for shark and ray management have been decided, some lost opportunities also mark this meeting.  

Simone Niedermueller, Shark Manager at WWF Mediterranean Marine Initiative said: 
“While in the last years, ICCAT has made some groundbreaking progress towards a more sustainable management of sharks, the same level of ambition is not maintained on all issues, as shown by the continuous failure to adopt a fins-naturally-attached policy.”

WWF welcomes the ICCAT’s decisions to reduce TACs for blue sharks in the Atlantic and to adopt a quota allocation scheme for the southern Atlantic stock. 

Additionally, we welcome the adoption of new conservation measures for manta and mobula rays and whale sharks that will prohibit the retention of these iconic and vulnerable species aboard all ICCAT vessels, as well as introduce voluntary practices to ensure post-release survival and strengthen reporting and data collection.
However, while WWF is contented to see some reduction to the blue shark TACs, it is unfortunate that ICCAT did not apply a more precautionary approach and set lower catch limits that would have given both stocks a higher probability of being managed sustainably [1]. Finally, WWF strongly regrets that despite the unprecedented support by 26 ICCAT parties, the ICCAT failed to adopt a fins-naturally attached policy that would put a stop to the damaging and wasteful practice of shark finning in the Atlantic in all fleets.

Harvest Strategies
WWF is pleased to see the completion of the harvest strategy for Atlantic bluefin tuna stock with the adoption of an exceptional circumstances protocol. This is an important, final piece of the puzzle that will provide guidance to ICCAT in special cases – for example if TACs are exceeded or the data needed to manage the stock is not available. 

Regrettably, and despite considerable efforts, no progress was made toward the adoption of management procedures for the North Atlantic stock of swordfish and for skipjack in the West Atlantic, nor to initiate the multi-species Management Strategy Evaluation process for other tropical tuna stocks.  

Monitoring & Control and traceability
Important steps were finally taken to enhance monitoring and counter illegal fishing and trade. In particular, we welcomed the establishment of minimum standards and requirements for the effective use of electronic monitoring systems in all ICCAT fisheries and the creation of a Working Group on Catch Documentation Scheme that will enhance traceability along international seafood supply chains.Finally, ICCAT Parties are required to improve port inspections and reporting on infringements in an effort to fight against illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing. 

Regrettably, the ICCAT Commission failed to establish a Joint International Inspection Scheme in Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction and align with other RFMOs in the fight against illegal fishing in high seas. 

Labor standards
Finally, WWF acknowledges the Commission’s efforts to address labor and human rights issues in its fisheries by adopting a non-binding resolution on core principles for labor standards. Ensuring that fish products are sourced from fisheries that guarantee adequate work conditions is an integral part of the sustainable transformation of the Atlantic fishing sector.
[1] With these TACs, the Northern stock will have between 49% and 67% probabilities of being sustainably managed until 2033 [1], while for the Southern stock the probability ranges from 67% and 54% in the same period. 
Yellowfin Tuna