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Discussion of draft guidelines

Guidelines introduction

12. The participants agreed that the introduction section of the Guidelines should be shortened acknowledging nevertheless that the drafted text provided useful background material but lengthened the document unnecessarily. It was agreed that the text for the "Introduction" and the "Nature and scope" sections of the Guidelines be replaced with the summarized text proposed by the Chairperson in Document 9.

13. It was agreed that the introduction should refer to bluefin tuna farming as a "capture-based aquaculture" practice and that this revised definition for "tuna farming" should be included in the text.

Capture fisheries

14. The participants agreed that the ICCAT Recommendation (04-06)[1] properly addressed the need to record catch and transfer data. The minimum catch size issue was debated, with some experts expressing that the minimum size set by ICCAT was purely a management measure considering that first spawning takes place mostly around 20-25 kg.

15. With the understanding that the scope of the Guidelines should be limited to present concerns resulting from bluefin tuna farming, it was acknowledged that questioning the recommendations adopted by the management bodies was not in the mandate of the Working Group. Any proposal to modify existing recommendations should be taken up by interested parties directly with the Commissions.

16. The current difficulty regarding the biomass estimation of tuna transferred to farming cages was highlighted. There was general consent that the use of killed specimens would not adequately represent the size-frequency of the captured fish and, therefore, more research was required in this respect.

17. It was agreed to remove from the Guidelines the section on the interactions with other marine organisms as incidental catches in the Mediterranean are not intrinsically related to farming.


18. The availability of fish specimens accidentally killed during fishing, cage transfers and transportation provides an opportunity for the collection of scientific data for research purposes and studies including those on evolutionary genetics. Although it was generally agreed that dead fish could only be used for gathering certain information, continuous cooperation from the industry in this regard should be encouraged. It was suggested that the biomass of dead fish should be among the reported data.

19. It was also noted that, in the future, issues such as the transfer of diseases, if any, should be taken into account bearing in mind that fish are moved from one site to another.


20. The participants acknowledged that fishing licences and quotas have been used to combat overfishing and regulate fishing capacity with a view to stabilize resource extraction, supplies and demand in the markets and to improve on product traceability. However, farming quotas for BFT aquaculture operations were not considered neither a realistic nor a feasible measure for improved regulation of the sector. Furthermore some disagreement was expressed within the Working Group on whether limits to the growth of the bluefin tuna farming sector could be set by taking into account the magnitude of the total allowable catch (TAC) established for this species in the region.

21. With regards to the licence issue, it was generally felt that a standardized system for adoption by all Mediterranean countries engaged in tuna farming would be difficult to achieve. It was nevertheless proposed that certain minimum requirements for issuing of licences should be adopted generally by these countries and their sectors, such as the obligation of conducting regular environmental impact assessment studies.

22. It was acknowledged that a farm registry was already in place with the ICCAT list of national approved farms. However, a more comprehensive system of such positive lists could be developed to control illigal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) farming or encourage that countries and their private sector representatives engaged in this industry continue to improve the exchange of information aimed at minimizing problems.

23. Socio-economic appraisals linked to the establishment of any bluefin tuna operations were discussed, particularly with respect to the avoidance of conflicts with other resource users including neighbouring fish farms. Furthermore, the Working Group deemed important that the public image of the industry would be raised if local fishing communities could be engaged to some extent. The issue of job opportunities and baitfish supply from local fishermen was raised as some of the possible arrangements.

24. The Working Group discussed the need for models in environmental impact assessment (EIA) and monitoring of the environmental effects of bluefin farms. Some countries apparently require EIA studies to include predictions of volumes of the release of faecal and excretory matters, while there is a lack of models which are specifically applicable to bluefin farming operations. The Working Group felt that field-testing of the applicability of dispersion and deposition models developed for seabream/seabass and salmon cage farming operations might generate the prediction tools needed. The BFT farming industry in the Mediterranean region could work together and promote the testing and adaptation of such models, where needed.

25. The Working Group discussed how, and by whom, a standardized EIA and environmental monitoring programme should be developed. Such agreed standardized environmental monitoring programmes could indeed be very useful at local, provincial, national and regional levels. The Working Group suggested that GFCM/CAQ consider developing advisory guidelines on environmental monitoring procedures that would include the minimum standards to be applied for bluefin tuna farming.

26. It was also suggested that related scientific contributions and on-farm experience from environmental monitoring at Spanish bluefin farming operations could be very useful for identifying and developing relevant and practical standards and procedures. At the same time, EIA and monitoring procedures and requirements for bluefin farming should be comparable with those for other Mediterranean cage farming operations, and should not impose additional burdens onto bluefin farmers.

27. The Working Group further recognized the need for specialized competence and recognized expertise in EIA and the monitoring of cage aquaculture operations. It was felt necessary to assure the competence of the institution or company carrying out such EIA and/or environmental monitoring activities.

28. Furthermore, the Working Group agreed that there should be a high level of accountability and transparency in the procedures and requirements for EIA and monitoring programmes. EIA and monitoring reports should be made available to the public. Reference was made to presently strong trends in other regions for development and implementation of private sector driven and auto-regulated environmental management systems in aquaculture, such as eco-management and audit schemes (EMAS), International Standardization Organization (ISO) environmental standards and Best Management Practices (BMPs). The Working Group recognized that trends of environmental certification and related accreditation needs are becoming important for the aquaculture sector.

29. The Working Group briefly discussed the issue of financing the development of standardized quality control systems to be developed to ensure the quality of baitfish (i.e. heavy metals, polychlorinated biphenyls, dioxin) and to ensure the absence of potential pathogens. Clearly, there is opportunity for the industry to work together throughout the Mediterranean region, as well as to seek collaboration with concerned regulatory authorities and interested scientific research institutions.

30. The importance of scientific research was debated at length. In general it was agreed that the tuna farm operators have been collaborating with the scientific community, however such collaboration should be encouraged and further reinforced. The issue of "information confidentiality" was also discussed.

31. There was some discussion concerning whether the point in the draft Guidelines on harvesting procedures (with revised wording) needed to be included, as it is in the economic best interest of the farmer to follow best procedures to ensure marketability. The Working Group kept the point based on the goal of documenting good practices that should be followed.

Harvesting and marketing

32. There was extensive discussion concerning the provision of "round weight" (live weight) data. It was noted that there are different practices in the countries of the region, but that often individual fish are not weighed.

33. Concerns were raised with regards to the adequacy of available conversion factors considering the different circumstances and stages of tuna farming. It was agreed that provisions would be included in the Guidelines for addressing the need for developing better conversion factors for farmed specimens.

34. It was noted that the measurement of weight at harvest provides the means to separate the capture fisheries and aquaculture components. The total production from the cages is important for the statistical interests of GFCM and FAO for determining the aquaculture component of the total bluefin tuna production. Some concerns were expressed that provision of these statistics was not clearly requested in ICCAT recommendation [04-06]. The portion of the recommendation (i.e. section 5) regarding quantities caged and quantities marketed was noted. This partially alleviated the concerns but there remained a question as to whether the marketed quantity was an appropriate surrogate for the total production.

35. The Working Group noted that it would be difficult to "ensure" the traceability of all traded tuna, but possible to "improve" the traceability. It was further agreed to add provisions to the Guidelines concerning the difficulties of traceability for the live fish trade, and relative to the ICCAT statistical documents.

Statistical issues

36. Although some statistical issues had already been mentioned in the specific chapters of the draft Guidelines, the Working Group decided to keep a chapter summarizing statistical issues, in order to reinforce the importance of collection and availability of data related to the various phases of bluefin tuna farming.

37. The Working Group discussed the problems related to different types of measurements. It was recalled that round (live) weight and fork length should be the standard measurements, although difficulties in accurately measuring live weight were reported and, for this reason, an improvement in conversion factors was suggested.

[1] Recommendation GFCM/2005/2/F.

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