ICCAT: chances of preserving bigeye tuna dwindle

ICCAT: chances of preserving bigeye tuna dwindle

The International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna (ICCAT) failed Sunday evening to reach a consensus for enhanced protective measures for overfished bigeye tuna, which leads to fears that no agreement be reached before Monday’s closing of its 21st extraordinary meeting. Fifty States and the European Union, representatives of the fisheries sector, NGOs and the scientists, are gathered since 12 November in Dubrovnik, Croatia, to discuss the situation of this tropical tuna.

In early October, the ICCAT Scientific Committee drew up an alarming assessment: bigeye tuna, enjoyed canned as in sashimi, is overfished, and the species is in the red.

Throughout the week, the stakeholders discussed various proposals. On Sunday, the most recent text proposed to "implement a 15-year recovery plan for bigeye tuna," until 2033.

This proposal sets an annual fishing quota of 62,500 tons for 2019, 2020 and 2021. Currently, the quota is 65,000 tons, but it only concerns seven parties, including the EU and Japan, the two largest fishers of bigeye.

Other countries escape the quota system. As a result, the total catch reached almost 80,000 tons in 2017.

To remedy this, the text proposes to include in the quota system countries catching over 1,575 tons per year of bigeye tuna.

This text includes measures to limit the use of FADs, floating rafts that bait the fish before taking it into the nets. These devices trap large numbers of juvenile bigeye.

Sunday evening, after a long working meeting, no consensus was reached on the text.

“It is over,’’ President of the Fishing Federation of the Azores Rita Gualberto,  fears, worrying that the absence of an agreement would affect small communities such as hers, which are highly dependent on bigeye tuna fishing. "To everyone's surprise, there was no agreement," another source said.

The chances of reaching a global consensus by Monday night are now very thin, if not nul, several sources considered. ICCAT will thus maintain the current fishing quota of 65,000 tons, one source said.

Consultations behind the scenes continued throughout the evening, and “nothing is decided’’ on the total fishing quota, another source claimed.

“It would be extremely disappointing’’ if ICCAT did not reach a global compromise, NGO Pew, Grantly Galland, commented.

In 2007, ICCAT had adopted drastic measures on the then over-exploited bluefin tuna after several years of procrastination, which helped replenish stocks.

The Brussels Times

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