Greenpeace reaction to the 2010 meeting of the ICCAT Scientific Committee

Press release - 8 October, 2010
Madrid, 8 October 2010 - As the 2010 meeting of the scientific committee of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) in Madrid closes, Greenpeace is demanding that the EU fulfill its legal obligation to protect endangered Atlantic bluefin tuna.

The meeting has seen an updated assessment of the stocks of bluefin which was undermined by by the poor quality of bluefin tuna fisheries data. (1)

“There are still huge uncertainties about the real status of the Atlantic bluefin stock, which in themselves should result in a full closure of the fishery,” said Sebastian Losada, Greenpeace International oceans policy advisor. “What is clear from this week’s preparatory meeting is that ICCAT’s November meeting in Paris must involve drastic steps from member governments to ensure the species’ recovery.

The EU, under the Marine Strategy Framework Directive, is legally bound to ensure the recovery of Atlantic bluefin tuna by 2015 and must restore ecosystem health by 2020 at the latest (2). The scientific advice given by ICCAT scientists has direct consequences for the EU, which has the obligation under Community law to go further than ICCAT and opt to reduce the overall quota to between 0 and 6,000 tonnes (3).The EU has the largest bluefin quota in ICCAT and has historically argued for the largest possible quotas, but other member nations, including the U.S. and Japan will need to work together to agree a realistic plan to ensure the species recovery.

“The European Union has a legal obligation to restore Atlantic bluefin populations, which includes ensuring that less than 6,000 tonnes of bluefin are caught in 2011 and beyond. ICCAT must also deliver on its commitment to protect the areas identified at this meeting as key spawning grounds for these fish – such as the waters near the Balearic Islands, off Libya and the Sicilian Channel – as protecting the remaining breeding population is essential component to rescuing the species.” (4)

ICCAT has failed to prevent the drastic reduction of Atlantic bluefin stocks, sanctioning overfishing by large purse-seining vessels and proving itself incapable of controlling overfishing and false catch reporting. (5)

ICCAT member parties will meet in Paris, between 16th and 27th November, 2010.

Greenpeace is campaigning for sustainable fishing and a global network of marine reserves covering 40% of the world’s oceans as necessary steps to restoring the world’s oceans to health.


(1) “Most of the data limitations that have plagued previous assessments remain and will require new approaches in order to improve the scientific advice the Committee can offer […] There remain considerable data limitations for the 2010 assessment of the stock. These included poor temporal and spatial coverage for detailed size and catch-effort statistics for many fisheries, especially in the Mediterranean. Substantial under-reporting of total catches was also evident, especially during the 1998-2007 years.” The lack of available data is mostly due to the expansion of purse seining and tuna farming in the region and poor reporting by countries engaged in bluefin tuna fishing.

(2) The EU has domestically and internationally committed to achieving the recovery of fish stocks to Maximum Sustainable Levels, including through a dedicated Communication on implementing sustainability in EU fisheries through maximum sustainable yield. Brussels, 4.7.2006. COM(2006) 360 final. Moreover, in accordance with the EU Marine Strategy Framework Directive, EU Member States are bound to achieve a Good Environmental Status of Europe’s marine waters by 2020, including by ensuring that populations of all commercially exploited fish and shellfish are within safe limits (achieving MSY), and exhibit a population age and size distribution that is indicative of a healthy stock. Directive 2008/56/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 June 2008 establishing a framework for community action in the field of marine environmental policy (Marine Strategy Framework Directive)

(3) According to the ICCAT bluefin tuna stock assessment report a catch between between 0 and 6,000 tonnes has a 66% probability of recovering the stock by 2020. In fact only a catch between 0 and 2,000 tonnes would have an 80% probability of achieving the same objective, which would be more appropriate for an overexploited stock such as bluefin tuna. See “Table 1. Probabilities of stock rebuilding at SSBF0.1 by years and TAC levels” in the bluefin tuna report of the SCRS 2010 meeting.

(4) The SCRS also has identified six primary spawning areas in the Mediterranean. In 2008 ICCAT members committed to protect bluefin spawning areas identified by the cientific committee. Key marine sites such as the waters around the Balearic Islands and the Sicilian Channel were also adopted as priority conservation areas by Mediterranean countries under the Barcelona Convention system in June 2010 as a first step in meeting regional and international commitments for the establishment of a network of marine protected areas by 2012.

(5) This prompted a proposal to prohibit international trade of bluefin tuna by the International Convention on Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). The proposal, supported by the European Union and the United States among others, was defeated at the last CITES meeting in Doha, Qatar, largely due to intense lobbying by the Japanese government.