Last week the horizon for Atlantic bluefin tuna grew somewhat darker. Despite dwindling stocks and concerns of extinction, The International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) decided only to reduce quotas by approximately one third instead of suspending the fishery altogether. The aim of limiting tuna catches is to help populations recover and ensure their sustainable exploitation in the future, however, some feel the move by ICCAT to be insufficient and simply a gesture that places interim commercial concerns over long-term interests of both tuna and fishermen.
Another concern is illegal fishing: despite the previous existence of a larger quota, some countries have simply exceeded them, whilst illegal and unreported catches are believed to add an additional 30% to reported harvests. It is feared that the reduced quota will simply further encourage under-reporting of catches and illegal fishing, promoting ongoing decline with a decreased ability to monitor the fisheries.
As such the move by ICCAT may prove ineffectual, with much of the remaining hope for the sustainable management of Atlantic bluefin tuna lying with the proposal to list them under CITES Appendix 1, which will be tabled at the CITES meeting next march.