26 November 2014

Posted by Susan Jackson and Victor Restrepo

The 19th Special Meeting of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT), held in Genoa, Italy from November 10-17th, took some important steps last week to move the needle forward in several critical management areas to assure the future sustainability of tuna in the region.

Fish Aggregating Devices (FADs)

Fishing on FADs account for nearly 40% of global tuna catch. A detailed analysis of FAD usage pattern is necessary to be able to determine sustainable fishing effort and impacts on tuna stocks. Last year, ICCAT set a high bar for the future management of fish aggregating devices (FADs) by adopting rules for the collection of detailed data. ICCAT also took a further step by encouraging the use of FAD designs that reduce the entanglement for other marine animals. This year, ICCAT Parties progressed further, and taking account of the recommendations of the ICCAT scientific committee, the Commission created a special FAD working group to assess the use of FADs in tropical tuna fisheries, developments in FAD technology and identify management options. Last year ICCAT joined IOTC and IATTC in adopting specific FAD data collection requirements, which became effective in 2014 (and for developing nations on 1 January 2015). This new working group will be making use of these new data when it begins its work next year. ISSF will participate in this working group and continue to offer its support to ICCAT in ensuring all gears are effectively managed. But ICCAT did not stop there. It became the first tuna RFMO to require nations to replace existing FADs with non-entangling designs by a date certain – 2016.

We applaud ICCAT for these huge steps forward. ICCAT is now in the lead among the other tuna RFMOs in managing FADs and minimizing the their ecological impact, such as the entanglement of sharks, turtles and other non-targeted species.

Vessel Monitoring Systems (VMS)

For the last decade, ICCAT has lagged far behind some of its peer RFMOs on its requirements for a Vessel Monitoring System (VMS). Speedy transmission of VMS data is essential in the fight to combat IUU fishing, scientific analyses and in monitoring the implementation of RFMO conservation measures overall. ISSF is pleased that the Commission adopted the recommendation from its Integrated Monitoring Measures Working group to speed up the rate of transmission of information from on-board VMS transceivers – from an outdated and ineffective six hours down to four hours. As underscored in our recent blog with the World Wildlife Fund and Monterey Bay Aquarium, while this reduction is a step in the right direction, the ICCAT VMS is still not up to global standards. We urge ICCAT to go further and adopt additional reforms next year to strengthen its VMS in line with best practices in MCS.

ICCAT made good progress in Genoa, but there were a number of important management measures that did not get approved, such as requiring 100% observer coverage year round for large scale purse seine vessels, mandating full retention of all tuna catches and for sharks to be landed with fins naturally attached. So ISSF will get back to the drawing board to provide continued assistance and recommendations to ICCAT members and support strengthened conservation and management of the Atlantic region’s tuna fisheries on which so many communities depend.

For more on our priorities for the ICCAT meeting, download the position statement here.

About the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation (ISSF)
The International Seafood Sustainability Foundation (ISSF) is a global coalition of scientists, the tuna industry and World Wildlife Fund (WWF) — the world’s leading conservation organization — promoting science-based initiatives for the long-term conservation and sustainable use of tuna stocks, reducing bycatch and promoting ecosystem health. To learn more, visit https://iss-foundation.org/.