MILAN – A multi-nation fisheries body on Monday raised the quotas for endangered Bluefin tuna in the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea to the dismay of conservationists, who said the move puts early signs of population recovery at risk.
Next year’s quota for Bluefin tuna off the United States, Canada and Mexico was raised by 14 per cent to 2,000 metric tons by the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas at the end of an eight-day meeting in the Italian port city of Genoa. It raised the quota for the larger population of Mediterranean Bluefin tuna by 20 per cent to 15,821 metric tons next year, with additional 20 per cent increases each of the following two years.
The fisheries body’s scientific committee said “gradual and moderate” increases in the catch would not jeopardize the stock health. But the Pew Charitable Trusts said the western Bluefin tuna population off the U.S., Canadian and Mexican coasts “remains severely depleted,” 15 years into a 20-year rebuild, and that scientific assessments indicate the increased catches could reverse the recovery trend.
Amanda Nickson, director of tuna conservation at Pew, said the new quotas “are not remotely precautionary.”
“At the first sign of growth this year, ICCAT members chose to go big for more quota, rather than sticking again to a regime that was just starting to work,” Nickson said by telephone from Washington, D.C. She said the decision appeared to reflect “a lack of political will to put in place responsible management for the medium- to long-term.”
In the face of the increased catches, the World Wildlife Foundation called on fishers, traders, retailers and consumers “to take greater responsibility” to ensure Bluefin tuna recovery.
Both groups also expressed disappointment at the body’s failure to enact an electronic monitoring system for the fourth straight year that would help crack down on illegal fishing.