Atlantic and Mediterranean fishing nations are getting ready to come together for the annual meeting of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) in Portugal from November 14-21.
As always, we have a list of items we would like to see member nations accomplish. You can download our full position statement here. Below we identify a set of key priorities where action by ICCAT in November is needed, along with interactive links where you can learn more about these issues that are vital for tuna sustainability.
Harvest Strategies. Harvest strategies (also known as ‘Management Procedures’), which include harvest control rules (HCRs) and reference points, are an essential tool for modern, precautionary fisheries management.
ISSF applauds ICCAT’s 2015 action to adopt Recommendation 15-04 to establish HCRs for the North Atlantic Albacore Stock and Recommendation 15-07 on the Development of HCRs and of Management Strategy Evaluation. ISSF urges the Commission to advance the essential processes outlined in these recommendations in accordance with the agreed timelines.
Purse Seine Vessels: Fish Aggregating Device (FAD) Management – Setting on FADs accounts for nearly 40% of global tuna catches and 50% of global skipjack catches. In 2014, ICCAT created a Working Group on FADs, which has since met twice. ISSF endorses the recommendations in its 2016 report and strongly encourages their implementation, especially the recommendations to:
- Develop a total retention policy for tropical tunas to better manage bycatch and reduce discards in tropical tuna fisheries – as IATTC, WCPFC and IOTC have done.
- Extend the 100% observer coverage on large-scale purse seine vessels to cover the entire year — as IATTC and WCPFC have done.
Since 2013, ISSF has required that its participating companies conduct transactions only with those large-scale purse seine vessels that have 100% observer coverage — on every fishing trip, and observing every fishing operation. As a result, most large-scale purse seine vessels now operating in the Atlantic have such observer coverage.
Supply vessel activities related to drifting FADs increase the efficiency of a purse seiner by reducing the time needed to search for or maintain FADs. Greater data collection is needed regarding such supply vessels, as well as regulation and monitoring. That’s why we are urging ICCAT to:
- Collect data on the number and use of supply vessels, such as the number of FADs being deployed and serviced by such vessels;
- Identify what activities supply vessels are engaged in, for example, working as bait boats, servicing FADs, or engaging in fishing;
- And ensure observer coverage and VMS requirements apply to supply vessels.
Tropical and Temperate Tunas – ICCAT’s Standing Committee on Research and Statistics (SCRS) reassessed the status of Atlantic yellowfin and the North and South Atlantic albacore stocks. The new assessments indicate that stock status has improved: overfishing is not occurring and, for yellowfin, the stock abundance has been increasing, although the stock is slightly overfished; and albacore is no longer overfished — demonstrating that overfished tuna stocks can recover with sound management.
So, ISSF is supporting SCRS recommendations to maintain the current total allowable catch (TAC) levels for these stocks so that they can continue to rebuild (in the case of yellowfin) or be maintained at a healthy level.
VMS, IUU Vessel Lists and Port State Measures – ICCAT should adopt further amendments this year to modernize its VMS measure in line with global best practices. One best-practice example is providing for the availability and use of VMS data to the Secretariat, SCRS scientists and the Compliance Committee.
ICCAT must also strengthen its IUU Vessel List process in line with best practices, and all member nations that have not yet done so must ratify the 2009 FAO Agreement on Port State Measures to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing.
Longline Fisheries: Observer Coverage, and Transshipment – The SCRS highlighted that the current 5% observer coverage requirement is inappropriate to provide reasonable estimates of total bycatch. And we note that often the paucity of data on catches and interactions with non-target species prevents assessments and adoption of conservation measures. We are also concerned with the failure of some CPCs to provide the required transshipment reports or advance notifications. Therefore, ISSF urges ICCAT to:
- Implement the SCRS recommendation to increase the minimum level of observer coverage to 20%, and at the same time, strengthen compliance by identifying and sanctioning non-compliance through the Compliance Committee;
- Progress the development of standards for E-monitoring and E-reporting standards, as soon as possible;
- And amend the ICCAT Transshipment Recommendation so that it covers longline vessels of 20m or greater.
Click here to review best practices for longline vessel skippers in our guidebook | Click here to read the meeting report of a workshop on EMS in longline fisheries | Click here for a paper on Transhipment in RFMOs and best practices