October 5, 2012 -- THE PEW foundation reports that, one month before the annual meeting of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT), ICCAT scientists have just finalised key recommendations for managing Atlantic bluefin tuna.
Although this year’s stock assessments suggest an increase in both the eastern and western Atlantic bluefin populations, the western increase is barely discernible. ICCAT scientists have also highlighted major uncertainties that call into question these reported increases in both populations.
According to Pew, ICCAT’s past decisions have ignored scientific advice, particularly in the eastern Atlantic (which includes the Mediterranean Sea), with quotas set higher than their own scientific committee’s recommendations. This, and rampant illegal fishing, has led to alarming declines in the numbers of Atlantic bluefin.
In 2009, ICCAT at last reduced the eastern quota to within the scientifically recommended level, and even though substantial illegal fishing has continued, we’re now seeing the beginnings of an increase in bluefin populations. In this year’s recommendations, this same group of scientists is urging that fishery managers maintain current catch limits (12,900 metric tons in the east and 1,750 metric tons in the west) to exercise caution and not increase the quotas, given the high degree of uncertainty and data gaps (including a lack of information on how much fish is caught illegally) in the current assessment models.
If this slight increase is to lead to an actual recovery of the Atlantic bluefin population, it is critical that ICCAT continue to follow conservative scientific advice and not rush to increase the quota, the foundation is at pains to point out.
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