Bluefin tuna - conflict between the EU discard ban and ICCAT rules

July 2014

EAA input to consultation concerning anglers' catches of tuna

RFMOs, (Regional fisheries management organisations) are international organisations formed by countries with fishing interests in a specific regional area. Some RFMOs have a purely advisory role, but most have management powers to set catch and fishing effort limits, technical measures, and control obligations.

ICCAT (the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas) is an inter-governmental fishery organization responsible for the conservation of tunas and tuna-like species in the Atlantic Ocean and its adjacent seas. ICCAT compiles fishery statistics from its members and from all entities fishing for these species in the Atlantic Ocean, coordinates research, including stock assessment, on behalf of its members, develops scientific-based management advice, provides a mechanism for Contracting Parties to agree on management measures, and produces relevant publications.

The problem - ICCAT rules vs. new EU rules

The European Commission has informed that the EU discard ban/landing obligation is not entirely in line with ICCAT provisions concerning:

  • Eastern Atlantic Bluefin tuna (i) below a mimimum reference weight/size caught as target species, (ii) as by-catch if exceeding 5% of the total catch, or (iii) in sport/recreational fishing (Recom. 13-07);
  • North Atlantic swordfish below a minimum weight/size (Recom. 13-02).
The European Commission works on resolving the conflicts between ICCAT and EU rules and has asked input from the stakeholders.

Landings by sport/recreational fishing are included the quota system under ICCAT's Atlantic bluefin tuna fisheries management scheme (which means among other things that all recreational landings of bluefin tuna are notified and counted against the quota).

Sport/recreational fishers release a great deal of their tuna catches, which is a good thing and in compliance with the ICCAT rules, and also in compliance with the EU rules in force today. 1st January 2015 the EU's discard ban provisions relevant for tuna fisheries shall take effect. It is of course of the greatest interest to recreational anglers that the EU discard ban doesn't jeopardize their fishing for tuna inadvertently.

EAA response

EAA has delivered this response, which solely focus on the sport/recreational fishing issue:

Concerning the EU landing obligation, with regard to Atlantic bluefin tuna and the ICCAT ‘rules’ (Recom. 13-07) concerning sport/recreational fishing.

We, the EAA, suggest the Commission that a derogation from the landing obligation should apply to sport/recreational fishing as these bluefin tuna fisheries show a high survival rate of released tuna (*) as required by the reformed CFP’s Article 15(4)(b) (**).

(*) - Two scientific reports on release mortality in rod and line fishing for Atlantic bluefin tuna:
a) - “Estimating mortality of Atlantic bluefin tuna (Thunnus thynnus) in an experimental recreational catch-and-release fishery” (2011)
b) - “An Estimate of Post release Mortality of School-Size Bluefin Tuna in the U.S. Recreational Troll Fishery” (2014)

(**) - Article 15(4)(b): “species for which scientific evidence demonstrates high survival rates, taking into account the characteristics of the gear, of the fishing practices and of the ecosystem;”