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Bluefin Tuna Recovery Plan Approved

The European Parliament plenary session voted last Thursday in favor of new cuts in bluefin tuna catch levels and fisheries campaigns under the Mediterranean Sea and Eastern Atlantic Ocean Bluefin Tuna Recovery Plan.

This year, the community fleet is authorized to harvest 12.406 tons of bluefin tuna, less than the 16.210 tons allowed last year.

Next year the quota will drop further to 11.237 tons as part of an approved 30% reduction over two years.

The fisheries campaign for tuna purse seiners will be cut back to four months spanning between 15 April and 15 June.

Bluefin tuna import and export operations involving any tuna specimens not counted under a quota has been banned, at the national level or per individual fishing vessel.

The Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) approved the proposal to adopt the Community Law Plan that safeguards the future of bluefin by a wide margin with 540 votes in favor, 53 against and 14 abstentions.

The MEPs did however adopt some amendments to the plan presented by the European Commission (EC), which include guaranteeing the presence of observers on all purse seine vessels targeting bluefin tuna, and empowering member states to suspend the fishing authorizations of vessels that have exhausted their quota.

The measures described in the bluefin tuna recovery plan were agreed upon by the members of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) in Marrakesh, Morocco in November 2008, and require:
Reducing total fishing capacity to 2007-08 levels for vessels that target bluefin tuna, followed by a plan to reduce and adapt fishing capacity to national quota levels;
  • Reducing total captive breeding capacity, which is not to surpass the maximum quantity of annual raw material allowed for the 2007-08 period, which will continue dropping in successive years;
  • Defining control mechanisms along the bluefin tuna marketing chain.
In addition, a regional ICCAT observation project has been launched. It guarantees 100% observation coverage of all tuna purse seiners longer than 24m in length, all purse seiners participating in joint fishing expeditions, and all fish transfers to and from pens.

During the full session of the European court, the Spanish MEP Carmen Fraga stated that “no recovery plan will save the bluefin tuna" as long as the capacity of “two, well-known community fleets that have been blamed for overfishing the tuna for years” is not reduced.

Fraga referred to the Italian and French fleets that “provoked the closure of the bluefin tuna fishery in 2007, and in 2008 caused the ban to be instituted earlier,” given that the vessels from these two countries “surpassed the combined catch quota of the two member-states.”

The legislator called for Brussels and the ICCAT to truly reduce fishing capacity.

The ICCAT Compliance Committee will meet in Barcelona between 24 and 27 March to assess compliance by contracting parties of measures that had been in force during 2007-08.