Countries from around the globe agreed to take more steps to combat Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing at the 20th annual meeting of International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) which recently concluded in Vilamoura, Portugal. ICCAT is an inter-governmental fisheries organization responsible for the conservation of tunas and other highly migratory species in the Atlantic Ocean. This year more than 600 delegates representing 51 governments gathered to discuss a number of important measures that advance the sustainable management of these valuable species.
“The U.S. supports actions taken by ICCAT to address IUU fishing, including amending transshipment controls, creating an expert group to design training programs on port inspection, and updating its IUU vessel list,” said U.S. Commissioner to ICCAT Russell F. Smith III.
Other key outcomes from the 2016 ICCAT meeting included:
- A measure introduced by Brazil, the European Union, Guatemala, Venezuela and the United States to establish the first-ever international management measures for sailfish including total allowable catches for both eastern and western Atlantic stocks.
- A measure adopted by ICCAT for North Atlantic blue sharks that included a total catch limit and blue shark data collection and reporting programs. A U.S. proposal to require fins attached gathered 30 co-sponsors, as well as additional support from other members on the floor, but despite this high level of support, did not gain a consensus and was not adopted.
- A new measure for North Atlantic albacore tuna that recognizes the assessment results showing the stock has rebuilt and setting the stage for development of harvest control rules that will maintain the stock at a sustainable level.
- Extensions of the existing management measures for western Atlantic bluefin tuna and North Atlantic swordfish were also adopted. They will remain in place through 2017 when updated scientific advice becomes available based on new stock assessments.
Despite significant efforts by the United States, ICCAT failed to adopt measures to reduce the catch of juvenile bigeye and yellowfin tunas or establish meaningful controls on vessels fishing on fish aggregating devices in the eastern Atlantic tropical tuna fishery. The U.S. will continue to press for these actions, as they are critical to ensuring the long-term sustainability of stocks of great economic importance to U.S. recreational and commercial fisheries.
ICCAT also took important steps to improve compliance with the management measures adopted. These included improvements to the way in which ICCAT members report their activities, improvements to the way in which ICCAT”s compliance committee reviews those reports and considers the actions of ICCAT members and the development of a schedule of possible responses to noncompliance with ICCAT management measures.
“We are pleased that ICCAT took significant steps forward this year to improve our compliance and reporting processes to enhance their effectiveness, transparency, and fairness,” said Commissioner Smith. “The actions to address non-compliance affirm that the Commission takes this matter seriously."
This year is the 50th anniversary of ICCAT. The Convention was signed in 1966 and formally entered into force after a ratification process in 1969. The U.S. delegation to ICCAT includes U.S. Government officials as well as representatives of the U.S. commercial and recreational fishing industries and non-governmental conservation organizations. For more information about the outcomes from the 20th annual ICCAT meeting, please visit the ICCAT website.
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