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A new era for the management of Atlantic bluefin tuna has started

The 23rd meeting of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) closed its annual meeting with a crucial adoption of a harvest strategy for Atlantic bluefin tuna that will finally secure the long term health of the stock.

WWF congratulates the 51 fishing nations and the EU and invites them to put the same effort towards the sustainable management of all other fish stocks managed under ICCAT. 

The newly adopted harvest strategy will allow ICCAT to manage both the East and West Atlantic stocks based on pre-agreed actions, including the increase or decrease of catch limits in line with the status of the stocks and relieves management decisions from short-term political pressure. This will contribute to maintaining the stability of the fisheries and markets, while minimizing the risk of depletion for the tuna population in the future.

Alessandro Buzzi, Fisheries Project Manager at WWF said:

“The adoption of a harvest strategy starts a new era for the management of Atlantic Bluefin tuna. Thanks to the concerted effort of Contracting Parties, scientists and all stakeholders involved, we will be able to have a healthy population in the long term.  The example of Bluefin tuna demonstrates that fisheries managers do have effective tools to fix the damages caused by overfishing and rebuild fish populations, ensuring profitable fisheries and healthy ecosystems. This same approach should be followed for the management of other tuna stocks globally”.

WWF acknowledges also the effort of the ICCAT Contracting Parties to reach an agreement on the allocation of this year’s quota for Mediterranean albacore, following  the rebuilding plan adopted last year. With the current setting, we can effectively put an end to the ongoing overfishing of albacore in the Mediterranean.. 

WWF urges scientists and fisheries managers to devote efforts  towards the development of a  management plan for tropical tunas that ensures the sustainable exploitation and an equitable and fair allocation of quotas, particularly in the light of Bigeye tuna which is still overfished in the Atlantic. 

WWF welcomes the adoption of a management plan for South Atlantic shortfin mako shark, which among other measures will ban the retention of live animals in the next two years, until the next stock assessment in 2024.  The measures aim to reduce mortalities by 53% but risks being undermined by the 24 month delay in the obligation to have an observer or electronic monitoring system (EMS) on board. WWF calls on fishing nations to apply best practices, including spatial management measures to effectively limit mortalities in line with adopted recommendations, and to give Shortfin mako sharks a real chance of recovery.   

WWF also welcomes the adoption of measures to reduce the bycatch of threatened sea turtles caught in the Atlantic sea.  Nonetheless, we highlight the need to maximize observer coverage and monitor the effect of changed gear and bait to avoid any consequential increase in bycatch of other vulnerable species such as sharks. 

Finally, WWF welcomes the decision of contracting parties to tackle illegal IUU fishing by isolating operators that are found not to be compliant with ICCAT rules and to streamline the need to address the impact of climate change on fisheries and Oceans.
© Wild Wonders of Europe /Zankl / WWF
Atlantic bluefin tuna shoal, Malta