2009 ICCAT meeting considered a success

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The 21st regular meeting of ICCAT was held in Reciffe, Brazil in November and considering the wide range of issues covered and the positive steps taken by the Commission, the meeting should be considered the most successful Commission meeting in recent years.

Many eyes were on the Commission this year as its ability to manage Atlantic Bluefin Tuna has been questioned and with CITES considering the listing of this iconic species at its March 2010 meeting, strong action was required to bring the fishery in the Mediterranean under control. Along with this, new management measures were required for a number of other key species managed by the Commission at this years meeting as well.

There was much debate around the Eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean Bluefin Tuna fishery and the actual quota level that should be set for this stock, ranging from no fishery in 2010 to 15,000mt. The former supported by all of the ENGO’s participating in the meeting and also being proposed by the Libya.

What was adopted at the end of the day shows the strong commitment by the contracting parties to adopt measures consistent with the scientific advice. Based on the most recent stock assessment, conducted in 2008, the total allowable catch should be set between 8500mt-15,000mt, with this in mind the TAC for 2010 was set at 13,500mt.

Additionally, the purse seine season was shortened to one month only, each contracting party participating in the fishery was required to reduce its fleet capacity by 50% by 2011, an additional 20 per cent by 2012, and an additional 5 per cent by 2013, and following next years stock assessment the Commission will adopt a rebuilding plan with a 60 per cent probability of success, with the goal of achieving Bmsy by 2022. These measures, along with the detail management and control scheme adopted at last years meeting for Eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean bluefin tuna, clearly demonstrate the commitment made by the Commission to protect the important stock.

Although there was a proposal put forward by the European Community on Western Bluefin Tuna, that mirrored the eastern plan, that called for those participating in the fishery to provide the Commission with a list of vessels authorized to fish for bluefin tuna by March 31 and required monthly reporting of catch, consensus was not reach on this proposal. While Canada, Japan, St. Pierre, and Bermuda commented that they could supply the required list and could comply with the reporting requirement, with Canada commenting that they could supply daily catch reporting if the commission so wished, the United States would not support the proposal.

Both Northern and Southern Swordfish plans expired at the end of the 2009 season and new management measures were adopted for both swordfish stocks at this years meeting.

A new multi-year arrangement was adopted for Southern Swordfish with an overall TAC of 15,000mt. as was suggested by the latest stock assessment. This represented a slight reduction of the quota and revision of the sharing arrangement.

Northern Swordfish should be considered ICCAT’s success story, a stock that is fully rebuilt, based on the 2009 stock assessment, following a ten-year recovery plan that was adopted by the Commission in 1999. This being said, the new plan for this stock was a more difficult issue, while there was agreement to set the TAC at 13,700mt., as was recommended in the latest stock assessment, the issue of sharing was much more difficult to resolve. With several parties fully utilizing their allocations and new entrants to the fishery looking for allocations on a permanent basis, the only real solution was for a redistribution of quota from those that have not been utilizing their allocation for an extended period of time such as the United States, who have failed to harvest more than 60% of its allocation over the last decade. This proved to be an insurmountable problem with the short time afforded to the discussion at this years meeting. The result was a one-year plan with an overall TAC set at 13,700mt, shares remaining the same as the previous plan, with Canada receiving a 100mt transfer from Senegal, bringing the Canadian quota up to 1473mt for 2010. To ensure that the overall TAC is not exceed due to carry forwards of unused quota, contracting parties will be required to reduce their catches in 2011 on a prorate basis to cover any overages in 2010, something that should not be a concern since a number of parties that hold quota do not have the capacity to harvest it. A new multi-year management plan will be worked out at the 2010 Commission meeting.

A new multi-year plan was also adopted for Northern Albacore tuna and a one-year plan was also adopted for Bigeye Tuna. While these two plans differed slightly from the previous plans with respect to TAC and other minor provisions with respect to sharing, there were no new changes that impacted upon the Canadian fishery for these species.

The Commission also adopted measure prohibiting the retention of Bigeye Thresher Sharks to afford protection of this species.

While the United States repeatable raised the issue that it had taken an ecosystem approach to the management of its fisheries, it became evident that this only applied to retaining their historic share of the Northern Swordfish quota that they have not been able to utilize for more than a decade. It was the United States that vetoed a joint proposal by Canada and the European Community to manage porbeagle sharks, they also vetoed their own proposal to protect Atlantic Sailfish when the proposal was expanded to cover the live release of sailfish in all fisheries.

Proposal to expand the protection of seabirds, to protect shortfin mako sharks, and sea turtles were deferred until the next Commission meeting due to lack of time.

Much of this years Commission meeting was spent dealing with compliance issues. These issues ranged from minor infractions, such as late data submission to major infractions such as over harvesting of country specific allocations and possessing bluefin tuna without the necessary documentation. These issues were taken much more seriously than is past years, with the Commission sending either letters of concern or letters of identification to all but four contracting parties. The four countries that were in compliance with all of the Commissions rules were Canada, Iceland, Norway, and Uruguay.

In summary, management measures were adopted consistent with the scientific recommendations for Eastern Bluefin Tuna, Northern and Southern Swordfish, Bigeye Tuna, and Northern Albacore Tuna. Measures to protect Bigeye Thresher Sharks were adopted for the first time. The compliance committee made considerable progress in dealing with issues of non-compliance. Northern Swordfish is fully rebuilt following the conclusion of the ten-year rebuilding plan adopted in 1999. The Canadian delegation made up of representatives from Department of Fisheries and Oceans and industry worked diligently to achieve results that were consistent with the scientific advise, while protecting Canadian interests. The results speak for themselves, five stocks with new management plans consistent with the scientific recommendations, additional protection for sensitive by-catch species, a successful completion of a stock rebuilding plan, and an additional 100mt. allocation of swordfish for Canada.

Organizations: European Community, Libya, Department of Fisheries and Oceans

Geographic location: Canada, Eastern Atlantic, Reciffe Brazil United States Southern Swordfish Northern Swordfish Japan Bermuda Senegal Atlantic Sailfish Iceland Norway Uruguay Eastern Bluefin Tuna

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