8 novembre 2023
The International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) made history in 2022 by adopting the first ever multi-stock management procedure (MP) for tuna with Eastern and Western Atlantic bluefin. This MP should be finalized this year by adopting an exceptional circumstances protocol (ECP’s) that would guide management in the case of unforeseen events (for example, a lack of critical input data). The bluefin MP and draft ECP’s followed on the 2017 MP for North Atlantic albacore, which has become another MP success story, recovering the stock and leading the recommended TAC for 2024-2026 to be the highest it’s ever been. ICCAT has momentum, and fisheries experts around the world are keen to see how the Commission plans to build from these successes.
The answer will come very soon. ICCAT has the potential to double the number of species it manages with MPs at its 2023 Commission meeting that begins on November 13th. Up for adoption is an MP for North Atlantic swordfish, an effort led by the major fishers, Canada, the United States, and the EU. Once so depleted that it attracted the attention of celebrity chefs who advocated for consumers to “Give Swordfish a Break,” the North Atlantic stock has seen an inspiring recovery led by ICCAT and member governments. 2023 could be the year ICCAT officially cements the stock’s future by adopting an MP that helps maintain its healthy status and fishery abundance for years to come.
Development of an MP for Western Atlantic skipjack tuna also made great progress this year following agreement on preliminary management objectives at last year’s annual meeting. A small stock compared to most tropical tuna fisheries, this MP could have an outsized impact as the first fully implemented MP for skipjack, the most frequently caught tuna and the third most frequently caught fish in the world. It would also be ICCAT’s first MP for a tropical tuna. With the technical work led by Brazilian scientists, it is also a symbol of the growing influence the global south is finally having at tuna-RFMOs, which have traditionally been primarily influenced by wealthier countries in North America, Europe, and Asia. However, as of November 8th, there is still no proposal posted on the meeting website from Brazil to tee up this MP for adoption despite endorsement from the ICCAT scientific community and potential support from other influential CPCs If there’s no proposal this year, this would be a major lost opportunity for Brazil as the leading harvester and ICCAT at large.
But there is another positive development for tropical tunas this year. In continuing its tradition of pioneering the science behind MPs and management strategy evaluations (MSE) on which they’re based, ICCAT has committed to manage all the remaining major tropical tuna stocks under its governance in the world’s first multi-species MP for bigeye, yellowfin, and eastern Atlantic skipjack tunas. The United States has submitted a proposal for preliminary management objectives for the multispecies MP. If adopted, this would help set ICCAT on track to adopt one of the most sophisticated MPs in history next year.
But to help position this monumental effort for success, ICCAT scientists have called for additional capacity in the form of an external review of the MSE software, more direct feedback and communication lines with the Commission, and to formalize a MSE technical working group specifically for the multi-species tropicals MSE. The Commission meeting will be an important time to finalize these plans including to agree to specific meeting dates and for members to commit to attending them.
2023 could be a milestone year for ICCAT if they can adopt an MP for North Atlantic swordfish, building upon the success of in-place MPs, while opening a new chapter with the potential to adopt their first MP for tropical tuna. With ICCAT’s commitment to establish MPs for 8 stocks in the near-term, this would put them more than halfway to their goal. With the extensive work on MSE and the upcoming multi-species MP, it will be essential to adopt the MPs for swordfish and skipjack to help clear the working calendar while also expanding the precedent for this important fisheries management tool.