To the surprise of no one, the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) failed again this year to adequately protect Atlantic bluefin tuna. Last week, ICCAT met in Brazil to set the 2010 quotas for the critically endangered bluefin tuna, and several of Oceana’s scientists and campaigners were present.
Oceana – along with many other organizations – believes that only a complete closure of bluefin fishing in the North Atlantic, including the Mediterranean, will give the fish a chance to rebound. Rampant overfishing of both juvenile and adult bluefin in the Mediterranean, an important breeding area, has already pushed that population to the brink of collapse.
Instead, ICCAT set a total allowable catch of 13,500 tons of tuna for 2010. Combined with the huge problem of illegal fishing, this is extremely disappointing for the future of Atlantic bluefin.
With the exception of thresher sharks, ICCAT also declined to address significant protections for sharks, which are often also caught by ICCAT fisheries both intentionally and as bycatch.
“ICCAT chose to put financial and political considerations before the health of our ocean’s top predators,” said Max Bello, campaign director for Oceana South America.
It increasingly looks like bluefin’s only savior could be CITES, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. Bluefin tuna are currently proposed to be listed under Appendix I as a species threatened with extinction.