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Bluefin Tuna: Commission Proposes Application Of Revised ICCAT Recovery Plan

The European Commission adopted a proposal last week  to transpose into Community law the revised  multi-annual recovery plan for Eastern bluefin tuna adopted by the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) at its annual meeting in Marrakech, Morocco in November 2008. It is important that this plan be implemented by all ICCAT Contracting Parties before the beginning of the main fishing season.

Tough measures to secure the future of the bluefin tuna stock must be taken immediately. This revised recovery plan demands further cuts in catch levels and fishing seasons, and reductions in both fishing and farming capacity. It is a sign of the seriousness of the stock situation. The revised plan also defines mechanisms for control throughout the marketing chain and closes many outstanding loopholes (see

European Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Joe Borg commented: “It is crucial that the measures that were agreed in Marrakech last November be applicable to this year's fishing season. If applied correctly, they are the best guarantee of protection to bluefin tuna that will give the stock a chance to recover from the huge overfishing that has been taking place for a number of years. I would urge all other contracting parties to ICCAT to take the same action so that the efforts of some are not undermined by others. We all need to act together in a responsible manner if we are really committed to the future of the bluefin tuna fisheries."

The plan's aim is to ensure that effective steps are taken to help rebuild the bluefin tuna stock in the eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean Sea. The combination of shorter fishing seasons, effective new control measures and both fishing and farming capacity limitations and/or reductions, together with the substantial reduction in fishing opportunities introduced in 2009, will serve to lower fishing pressure on the fragile bluefin tuna stock significantly.

The main elements of the revised recovery plan, besides the reduction in TAC levels until 2011, are as follows:
  • The fishing season for purse seiners, which represents around three-quarters of the EU quota) will be shortened by 4 months (15 April-15 June).
  • Fishing capacity will be immediately frozen at 2007-2008 levels, followed for the first time by a plan to reduce it and bring it into line with national quotas.
  • Farming capacity in 2009 must not exceed the maximum authorised annual input over the period 2007-2008, and in subsequent years, capacity will be further reduced.
  • An ICCAT regional observer project will be established to ensure 100% observer coverage for all purse seiners over 24 metres, for all purse seiners involved in joint fishing operations, and during all transfers to and harvesting from cages.
  • Video records of fishing and farming operations made by operators must be made available to observers and inspectors.
  • Market measures are to be strengthened, in particular by banning import and export operations for all bluefin tuna for which there is no quota, either at national or individual vessel level.
  • National fishing plans will ensure that fishing effort is limited in line with the quota and all boats over 24 metres will be allocated individual quotas.
  • There will be specific quotas for sport and recreational fishing, counted against the national quota and subject to catch reports.
  • A rigorous framework will control joint fishing operations.
  • The minimum landing size derogation for pelagic trawlers in the Atlantic will be removed
    Transshipment at sea will be prohibited and will only be possible in designated ports.
  • Tuna must not be transferred to farms without the prior authorization of the flag state of the catching vessel.
The total allowable of bluefin tuna catch for Community vessels in 2009 has been reduced to 12 406 tons, as against 16 210 tons in 2008. It will be decreased further to 11 237 tons in 2010, with a reduction of 30% over two years.
On 24-27 March, the ICCAT Committee of compliance will meet in Barcelona in order to assess the compliance of the Contracting Parties with the measures in place in 2007 and 2008, as decided in Marrakech last November.