Future of the bluefin tuna debated in Paris

19 November 2010

The 17th meeting of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) opened November 17 in Paris. The 48 members of the Commission, all fishing countries, have ten days to decide on catch quotas for the bluefin tuna, whose stocks have fallen by 85 percent in 30 years. In addressing ICCAT, John Scanlon, Secretary-General of CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species), recalled that, at its March 2010 meeting, CITES had failed to agree to limitations on trade in bluefin tuna and noted that “the debate was on the role of ICCAT in the conservation and sustainable use of the species.”

ICCAT’s Standing Committee on Statistics and Research has estimated that maintaining the current quota of 13,500 tons a year would have a 60 percent probability of achieving an acceptable level of bluefin stocks by 2022. This means a 40 percent chance of failure to recover.!

The Committee also indicated that a reduction of catch quotas to 6,000 tons would allow a 97 percent chance of stocks rebuilding to a sustainable level in the same time frame. Suspending bluefin tuna fishing beginning this year would allow stocks to recover by 2019.

European countries seem to have agreed on stabilizing quotas for this highly lucrative fish and have rejected proposals by the European Commission for a substantial reduction in quotas. Dr. Jane Lubchenco, who is leading US negotiations, indicated that the United States would call for a reduction in bluefin tuna catches in 2011.

Initial meetings take place behind closed doors with the plenary session opening Friday, November 19.

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