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ISSF: “IATTC Adopts Limited Measures, Overfishing May Continue”

The Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC) took a step toward critical science-based conservation measures to help Eastern Pacific Ocean (EPO) bigeye recover from overfishing, but stopped short of adopting the complete set of recommendations from its Scientific Staff.

“We’re satisfied calling this a start but it’s certainly not the endgame,” said International Seafood Sustainability Foundation (ISSF) President Susan Jackson.

At the end of its annual meeting in La Jolla, California, all 16 IATTC member nations accepted a series of conservation measures ad referendum, which allows Colombia additional time to consider. The tentative agreement includes a purse seine fishing closure to last from 59-73 days that, along with other allied measures, will reduce fishing effort by roughly 20 percent over the next 3 years, according to IATTC staff analyses. In addition, a large area in the Pacific Northwest of the Galapagos Islands will be closed for one month to protect young bigeye tuna. Longline catches of adult bigeye will be reduced up to 9 percent.

“Conservation measures take political willpower and the member nations of the IATTC showed they are beginning to muster up enough to get the ball rolling,” said Dr. William Fox, WWF – US, VP for Fisheries and ISSF Board member. “Of course, we want to keep the ball rolling until every obstacle in the way of sustainability is knocked down.”

ISSF joined a chorus of concerned conservationists, sustainability-minded companies and scientists, all of whom are worried EPO bigeye has been harvested without conservation measures since 2007 against repeated warnings from the IATTC scientific staff that the stock is being overfished. The ISSF Board of Directors red-listed EPO bigeye and passed a conservation resolution to refrain from transactions in the stock if conservation measures are not in place by September 1, 2009.

“EPO bigeye is still in trouble,” Jackson said. “We’re committed to supporting sound, science-based management of all tuna stocks and we will continue working with the IATTC.”

The ISSF Board of Directors will review its position when final IATTC conservation measures - and countries agreeing to those measures - are announced next month.

The International Seafood Sustainability Foundation (ISSF) is a global partnership among scientists, the tuna industry and WWF, the global conservation organization. Its mission is to undertake science-based initiatives for the long-term conservation and sustainable use of tuna stocks, reducing by-catch and promoting ecosystem health.