THE 24th REGULAR MEETING OF ICCAT IN MALTA ...MARINE PROTECTED AREAS FOR HIGHLY MIGRATORY FISH SPECIES IN HIGH SEAS ARE NEEDED
The EU-funded CoCoNet project was presented at the 24th Annual Meeting of the International Commission for the Conservation of the Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) held in Malta on 10-17 November 2015. There was much discussion on all the tuna species, swordfish, shark species, harvest control rules, management procedures, quotas and quantities, a timeline for the recovery of highly migratory fish species, catch limits and management strategies, etc.
On one side, the bluefin tuna fishermen were pleased to see an important increase in catch quota. It was said to be the result of the good management of the stocks as well as progressive recovery of the stocks. It is remarkable that European fleet has 20 % increase in the quota compared to the previous year, resulting in 9.372 tonnes of total allowable catch for the EU .The bluefin tuna fishery regulated by(ICCAT) which in 2006 adopted a 15-year recovery plan for bluefin tuna in the East Atlantic and Mediterranean Sea . On the other hand, it was noticed that there are many stocks with uncertainty, lack of traceability which prevents the eradication of the IUU (illegal, unreported and unregulated) fishing.
It was also discussed on the implementation of the electronic bluefin catch document (eBCD) system the ICCAT has developed just recently. The implementation of the eBCD by the March 2016 deadline is an important milestone. Everyone agreed that the current paper-based system is outdated and it has a number of loopholes for illegal trade. Unfortunately, this system has been delayed many times for several acceptable or unacceptable reasons. The eBCD should be fully and comprehensively implemented by the 2016 fishing season to mitigate IUU fishing.
Another issue is that we need new management measures urgently with a very ambitious recovery plan for the swordfish in the Mediterranean Sea. The stocks of this fish has been severely depleted and they need a realistic recovery plan. Besides, we regret that lack of actions to ensure sustainable management of the shark species in the Mediterranean Sea. No actions have been realized for these ancient fishes ... All we know is that several shark species are seriously threatened by a variety of human activities, such as bycatch, illegal fishing, and pollution.
The ICCAT should take some actions and create an agenda for High Sea Marine Protected Areas (HSMPAs) because many highly migratory species are under threat both in the Black Sea and the Mediterranean Sea. Without long-term management strategies and science as well as long-term political or economic interests, we cannot protect our shared stocks, our common heritages in these seas. Even though there are some legal impediments for the designation of HSMPAs, these legal issues should also be one of the agenda for the ICCAT.
The CoCoNet project was introduced to the participants at the Malta meeting of ICCAT by means of informative brochures, posters and the CoCoNet documentary film. The Project attracted much attention and the success story of the CoCoNet was widely shared by the ICCAT community.