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At the recent meeting of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas, or ICCAT, in Brazil, the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, issued a statement calling the ICCAT agreement on new rules for the eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean bluefin tuna fishery "a marked improvement over the current rules," but noted that it "is insufficient to guarantee the long-term viability of either the fish or the fishery."
ICCAT’s new measures set a total catch limit of 13,500 metric tons for eastern Atlantic bluefin tuna, down from the 2009 limit of 22,000 metric tons but still not enough to end overfishing on this stock.
The United States is disappointed that the total allowable catch is not lower, but strongly supports the commitment to set future catch levels in line with scientific advice, shorten the fishing season, reduce capacity, and close the fishery if stocks continue to decline.
This year, as in past years, U.S. negotiators sought a suite of management measures that would end overfishing and help rebuild stocks of Atlantic bluefin tuna.
Over the past decades, countries that fished in the eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean did so at two to three times the sustainable level, causing significant and rapid decline in the stock.
ICCAT also adopted management measures for other important stocks, including a science-based rebuilding program for northern albacore tuna; a retention prohibition for highly vulnerable bigeye thresher sharks; a reduced total catch for North Atlantic swordfish; and a new process for providing scientific advice that will give managers clear information on the levels of risk and the timeframes involved in meeting fishery management goals.
Dr. Rebecca Lent, the head of the U.S. delegation to ICCAT said, "Negotiations were extremely challenging this year at ICCAT. The United States sought a package of measures for eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean bluefin tuna that would halt overfishing and provide for rebuilding by 2023 with a high probability of success. The science indicates that a total quota level of 8,000 metric tons or lower would have achieved that. While I am pleased with the commitments for significantly lower quotas next year, I am disappointed that parties did not take immediate measures to significantly reduce the quota for the 2010 season."
The U.S. remains committed to pursuing every avenue to recover Atlantic bluefin tuna and ensure their long-term survival.