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Commission Threatens Future of Tuna by Sidestepping WWF's Pleas to Limit Catch

Image credit: WWF

WWF says it will now urge a suspension of fishing for Pacific Bluefin tuna, if fishing nations fail to set binding catch limits in line with scientific recommendations this year.

WWF’s hardening stance follows an inconclusive annual meeting of the Inter American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC), which deferred discussions on bluefin tuna quotas to October. Catch reductions of at least 50 percent and a drastic reduction in the number of juveniles caught will also need to be implemented by the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) in Samoa in December in order to secure the future of the fishery. 

“It is extremely disappointing that five days of negotiations by the 21 country members of the IATTC have produced so little in the way of tangible fishery outcomes,” said Pablo Guerrero, Eastern Pacific Ocean Tuna Coordinator for WWF’s Smart Fishing Initiative. “According to the scientists, the breeding stock of Pacific Bluefin Tuna are at only 4 percent of original levels and 90 percent of the current catch are juveniles yet to breed.”

At the just-concluded meeting, major fishing countries Japan, Korea, Mexico and the US did not agree on conservation measures and delayed decisions until October, when the parties will meet again to negotiate the quota for 2015. WWF is seeking a reduction from 5,000 to 2,750 metric tons.

For tuna generally, where purse seine fishery capacity levels are a third more than levels set out in the IAATC’s 2005 Plan for Management of Regional Capacity, the commission was also unable to agree on a reduction plan to meet the capacity limits. The alternative, said Guerrero, was to expand the size and duration of fishery closures to maintain healthy tuna stocks in the face of the overcapacity and this should be of great concern to the fisheries sector.

WWF said one positive outcome of the meeting was the approval of mandatory IMO (International Maritime Organization) numbers for all purse seiners and long liners greater than 20m in length operating in the Convention area to monitor and control existing fishing capacity. The NGO said it is very pleased that the IATTC voted for the evaluation of target and limit reference points for the North Pacific albacore, which will permit scientist to assess the impacts of strategies and management options for this fishery.

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