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21st Special Meeting of the ICCAT Commission

22/01/2019 - 31/01/2019

The 21st Special Meeting of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) took place from 12-19 November 2018 in Dubrovnik, Croatia. ICCAT is an intergovernmental organization and one of the Regional Fisheries Management Organizations (RFMOs) that is responsible for conserving tuna stocks in the Atlantic Ocean and its adjacent seas. The purpose of ICCAT is maintaining stocks of tunas and tuna-like species at levels that will permit maximum sustainable catches. The commission holds a regular meeting once every two years. This year, the council held a special meeting by inviting contracting parties. The commission was joined by 52 Contracting Parties and five cooperators. The following topics were discussed at the meeting:  

Bluefin Tuna (Eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean) 

The multiannual management plan adopted by the commission for 2019-2020 includes allocation for bluefin tuna in the Eastern Atlantic and the Mediterranean Sea. In the 2017 Annual ICCAT meeting, the Standing Committee on Research and Statistics (SCRS) reported that current stock status has improved compared to past years. Following this report, the total allowable catch (TAC) is set to increase stepwise to 36 000 tonnes in 2020 which is 1.5 times larger than catch in 2017. Although Bluefin tuna stocks in the eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean grew, ICCAT suggests to review the TAC following the advice by the SCRS. ICCAT amended the Bluefin Tuna Catch Documentation Program and improved the scheme, in order to clarify the issuance, numbering, completion and the validation. ICCAT's technical group has developed an Electronic Bluefin Tuna Catch Document (eBCD) system that can detect IUU shipments, expedite the validation process of BCDs, provide accurate information and create easy access not only parties, but also between exporting and importing authorities.

Bycatch Species

ICCAT agreed to review the current plan of conservation and management measures for billfish caught in the convention area. The stock assessment of SCRS indicated that the blue marline stock was insufficient to prevent further stock decline and that white marline stock was overfished. Notwithstanding, there is uncertainty and underreporting in catch and discard data. 

Conservation Measures (Monitoring and Compliance Issues)

The Permanent Working Group (PWG)  plays a role in the improvement of ICCAT statistics and conservation measures in order to control and manage quotas and catch. PWG identified different refinement strategies of monitoring, control and surveillance measures. In this meeting, the Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) vessel list, port state measures and vessel monitoring system (VMS) were approved. The activities of IUU fishing inhibits conservation and management measures by ICCAT. Increased reporting requirements are required to control and manage quotas and catch. 

Tropical Tunas

ICCAT recommended the renewal of the conservation and management program for tropical tunas. SCRS assessment indicated that the bigeye tuna stock is overfished and suggested the implementation of new control measures to contribute to the sustainable management of the tropical tunas fishery. However, the commission could not reach a consensus in this meeting. The annual catch limits for bigeye tuna will be further discussed in next year's meeting.

The 2019 Annual ICCAT meeting will be held in Curaçao from 18-25 November, 2019.