EU pushes for sustainable fishing in Marrakesh

Tuna fish swimming underwater, known as bluefin tuna or Atlantic bluefin tuna (Thunnus thynnus). [Lorna Roberts/Shutterstock]

The world’s fishing nations, including the EU, agreed on Wednesday (22 November) to up the annual quota of bluefin tuna as stocks improved in recent years.

This week’s annual meeting of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) in Marrakesh agreed on an increase of the total allowed catches (TAC) for bluefin tuna. Reaching a maximum of 36,000 tons by 2020 is fully in line with scientific advice, said the European Commission.

“We have been able to decide a gradual increase of captures, by staying careful. And we are staying within the scientific advice,” Stefaan Depypere, the head of the European Union delegation said in an interview with the Associated Press.

The EU has insisted on sustainable fishing since 2007. On Wednesday, the countries decided to abide by the precautionary approach defended by the EU so that the increase will be phased in only gradually, from 24,000 tons this year to 28,000 next year, with a further 4,000 tons added in each of the following two years.

“For years, the European Union has been leading international efforts to promote fisheries that are sustainable for both fish and fishermen, for the environment and for the economy,” European Commission Director-General for Fisheries and Maritime Affairs Joao Aguiar Machado told EURACTIV.com.

“Thanks to sustained efforts by the fishing industry since 2007, scientists now register steady progress. In fact, the Atlantic bluefin tuna stock is approaching a historic high. The last time the stock was at this level, there were no rules in place. In some years, catches would reach as much as 60,000 tons, eventually leading to its collapse,” Machado explained.

Environmentalists regretted the increase and said it was premature. “This year was an enormous step backwards for sustainable tuna fisheries,” reportedly said Paulus Tak of the Pew Charitable Trusts.

Disgraceful behaviour by the EU at high-level tuna meeting in Marrakesh

While claiming to fight for the oceans and put sustainability first, the European Commission is pushing for the largest total allowable catches of bluefin tuna ever seen, without a solid scientific basis, write Linnéa Engström, Ricardo Serrão Santos and Norica Nicolai.

But the European Commission refutes the accusations. “Given our objective of promoting sustainable fisheries, it goes without saying that the European Commission would not suddenly allow a riskier approach. In fact, this year’s decision is probably more solid than ever before, thanks to improved scientific methods,” insisted Machado.

The Commission regretted however that the EU’s proposal to move towards a more long-term management plan, was not adopted, but postponed to next year’s ICCAT meeting.

“We will continue our efforts for sustainable fisheries. There is lots of work ahead for us all.” ended Machado.