EAA Position on Atlantic Bluefin Tuna (BFT) management

Update EAA Bluefin Tuna resolution 2011

EAA has adopted these recommendations to improve the ICCAT and EU BFTfisheries management with regard to recreational fishing:

1 - Data collection

EAA urges, with emphasis on the eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean seas:
a - Further improvement of data collected on commercial as well as recreational BFT fisheries.
b - Changes to be made with regard to the categories set for ICCAT data collection concerning recreational BFT fisheries.

Recreational fishing data are stored in the ICCAT database under two categories: “sport (SP) and recreational (RR - Rod and Line) fisheries”. Since 2006 ICCAT adopted two definitions for recreational fishing2, which do not fully comply with the data collected and stored already in the database. Above all, old and new data seem not fit for present management needs as not all relevant recreational fisheries segments are identified or kept separate in a non-ambiguous way. Therefore:

EAA suggest these categories to be established for ICCAT data collection purposes:
- Recreational Angling (rod and line and hand lines); eventually a sub-category “competition fishing”
- Charter boating (business: boat taking anglers onboard against payment)
- Recreational Spear Fishing; eventually a sub-category “competition spear fishing”
- Other recreational fishing; this category may be needed for the ICCAT database to be complete.
However, for EU waters in the Mediterranean Sea there may be no such data to collect. Most of, or all, other recreational fishing - apart from recreational angling, sports/competition fishing and spear-guns - were banned by Council Regulation (EC) 1967/2006 of 21 December 20063.

2 – Socio-economic value of recreational fishing for Bluefin Tuna

EAA requests that socio-economic studies on recreational fishing for tuna be carried out as soon as possible and repeated e.g. every three years.
Often the recreational angling sector is treated as inferior to other fish exploiting interests or even a threat to them. This is a gross neglect of the huge economic contribution and the many jobs created and sustained by the recreational angling sector. Solid and repeated socio-economic studies may help to change this mistreatment of a sector, which delivers more benefits and income per fish than any other. The decision makers need this information to be able to make informed decisions about sustainable fisheries management. EU and its Member States are already obliged “where relevant” to carry out pilot surveys “to estimate the importance of recreational fisheries” for certain species in certain areas. For the Mediterranean Sea is mentioned surveys may be carried out for eels and Bluefin tuna4.
EAA finds it “highly relevant” to carry out as soon as possible a survey (socio-economics) of the importance of recreational BFT fishing.

3 – Tagging & release practices

EAA suggest CPCs to encourage tagging & release practices.
ICCAT REC 13-09 enunciates for Western Atlantic BFT management. CPCs should encourage commercial and recreational fishermen to tag and release all fish < 30 kg or, alternatively, fork length <115 cm and report on steps taken in this regard in their Annual Report in Eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean as well5.

Many European anglers are seriously involved with conservation and recovery of this species, working hard side by side with scientific institutions. Anglers take part e.g. in the ICCAT/GBYP projectas volunteers, helping scientists with data collection.

4 – Sales exemption to be revised

EAA suggests ICCAT and EU to reconsider the exemption for sales of fish “for charitable purposes”
ICCAT Recommendation of 20137, paragraphs 35 and 39, and Council Regulation (EC) 302/20098 Art. 12 should be revised. EAA suggests to delete the sales exception made for charitable purposes or, alternatively, alter to allow fish (not money) for charitable purposes -e.g. donate the fish to canteens for old people, schools etc.

5 – Recreational catch limits

EAA suggests ICCAT to introduce a seasonal bag limit for any authorized recreational boat.
ICCAT Recommendation 13-079, paragraph 34, should be revised. EAA suggests that “CPCs shall take
the necessary measures to”:

a) Make catch and release obligatory in fishing competitions targeting tuna.
b) Prohibit the catch and retention on board, transshipment or landing of more than one Bluefin tuna per recreational       boat per day.
c) Introduce a seasonal landing limit for each authorized recreational vessel. This limit, fixed at Member State level,           should take into account both the number of recreational vessels authorized and the recreational fishing quota, in         order to distribute more fairlyto the recreational fishing quota among the authorized recreational vessels.
d) Allow Catch and Release BFT fishing practice all year round10

6– Control and enforcement

EAA welcomes recent years’ increased control and enforcement concerning the tuna fisheries. This, together with the implementation of rebuilding plans has brought good results in BFT tuna stock recovery, as highlighted in ICCAT Report 2012–2013 – but more could and should be done11.

7 – Recreational angling should be managed in its own right

EAA requests that recreational angling for tuna is managed in its own right independent of other tuna exploiting interests. Fish stocks are a public resource – and should remain so.
EAA agrees with EU Commissioner Damanaki that “fish stocks are a public resource”12 and also that “ITQs would not be property, but user right, because the resource remains a public good”13. However, the Commission needs to make a proposal how to secure the public´s access to the Bluefin tuna resource independently of ITQs allocated to commercial exploiters. In particular to secure that recreational angling for tuna is not closed for reason that the commercial sector has used up its quota, or its wish for additional quota. EAA suggests that the EU Member States should find a way how to avoid, that when a few commercial fishermen overfish their quota or a few individuals fish illegally, that these circumstances do not cause early closure of the recreational fishing season. We suggest, for example:
a) The recreational fishing season open all year or till the recreational quota is used up14.
b) and/or to increase the observer coverage percentage on active longline catching vessels15.
c) and/or that at national level longline fisheries are obliged to declare catches at least bi-weekly16

8 - EAA requests recreational angling sector is allocated a fair share of the tuna quotas

The BFT quotas allocated to recreational fishing by European countries overall are too little to be fair to cover the basic need of the recreational angling and recreational angling tourism sectors. As a consequence early closures can occur. E.g. Italy closed all recreational fishing – with a very short notice this year – 23 July, more than two months before the recreational tuna fishing season ends (14 Oct). The quota was used up it was said. For recreational anglers and the dependent businesses, including tourism, it is of paramount importance they can plan safely from one year to another without having to fear a closure before the announced fishing season ends.

For notes and references please download position paper
oktober, 2014