ICCAT Makes Half-hearted Attempt to Protect Overfished Mediterranean Swordfish
Oceana, the largest international advocacy group working solely to protect the world’s oceans, applauded the 22nd Regular Meeting of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) today for establishing new protections for silky sharks, the shark species most vulnerable to overfishing by Atlantic longline fisheries. The new measure requires that all silky sharks caught in ICCAT fisheries, excluding those caught by developing coastal countries for local consumption, must be released.
“It is a great day for silky sharks,” said Elizabeth Griffin Wilson, senior manager of marine wildlife at Oceana. “ICCAT should be commended for its continued effort to protect the oceans top predators. Today’s decision to protect silky sharks is a strong step forward in protecting one of the most commonly found species in the international shark fin trade.”
Oceana did voice concern that ICCAT failed to reach consensus on several important shark measures, including those to protect vulnerable porbeagle sharks, establish science-based precautionary catch limits for blue and shortfin mako sharks and improve the current finning measure by requiring that sharks be landed with their fins wholly or partially attached in a natural manner.
While Oceana believes that more should be done to address the 50% decline in Mediterranean swordfish, it commended ICCAT for taking the initial step, including requiring a minimum landing size, a limit on the size and number of hooks used and a comprehensive reporting system for gathering sufficient data to adequately assess the stock.
“ICCAT has made a half-hearted attempt to establish measures to protect overfished Mediterranean swordfish” said Maria Jose Cornax, fisheries campaign manager for Oceana Europe. “ICCAT should remain committed to adopting real management measures in the immediate future to recover Mediterranean swordfish."
Specifically, Oceana believes that ICCAT should establish a comprehensive management plan for Mediterranean swordfish that includes: 1) catch limits in accordance with scientific advice; 2) a science-based minimum landing size and technical measures to avoid the catch of juveniles; 3) a coherent system of fishing authorization and scientifically assessed fleet capacity reduction plans; and 4) a penalties system to ensure reporting of data and that illegal driftnet fishing is terminated.
Oceana also applauded ICCAT for establishing new measures to reduce sea bird bycatch in longline fisheries and improve reporting requirements for bycatch species, including marine mammals, sea turtles and sharks. All 48 fishing countries of the Atlantic Ocean will also be required to submit data on the species they catch or forfeit their right to fish for those species the following year until such data is received.
For more information about ICCAT, sharks and swordfish, and for downloadable images, please visit www.Oceana.org/ICCAT.