Retailers and seafood buyers urge European leaders to establish harvest strategies for prized Atlantic tunas and swordfish, starting this year with the iconic bluefin tuna
Today, global tuna industry stakeholders, marine fisheries conservation experts, and European seafood market stakeholders came together to discuss the future of sustainable tuna fisheries management on a webinar co-hosted by The Pew Charitable Trusts, GTA, TUPA, and HarvestStrategies.org. Over 140 registered to take part. The webinar urged the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) to implement science-based harvest strategies for the stocks it manages, including the iconic Atlantic bluefin tuna.
Atlantic bluefin is worth more than $1 billion each year at the final point of sale, and European fishers have long had a stake in keeping it commercially viable. Once in place, these predetermined mechanisms for setting catch limits will ensure not only stronger, smarter rules for fishing, but confirm for seafood buyers that they are sourcing from a well-managed fishery.
Tom Pickerell, the Executive Director of the Global Tuna Alliance said, “Harvest strategy implementation will show that ICCAT is serious about its commitment to sustainable management. While the GTA does not work on bluefin, adoption this year for Atlantic bluefin tuna will pave the way for other stocks in need of similar management, such as skipjack, yellowfin, and bigeye tunas”
Florie Hovine, Coordinator of the Tuna Protection Alliance added, “We are pleased to see so many seafood stakeholders take action today to encourage the European Union to better manage key stocks. These fish are worth billions each year, and seafood buyers and consumers alike need assurances that they are purchasing the best. Adopting a harvest strategy for Atlantic bluefin tuna this year will prove that ICCAT is ready to be an ocean-wide leader of sustainability.”
During the webinar, a statement was shared with participants – with a simple poll asking whether they agreed or disagreed – that ICCAT should prioritise implementation of harvest strategies for commercial tunas, starting with Atlantic bluefin tuna at this year’s commission meeting. 100% of all event stakeholders voted in agreement with this statement during the event.
The statement reads, “The recovery of Atlantic bluefin tuna in the eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean Sea represents one of the greatest success stories in fisheries management. A harvest strategy would lock in these gains for bluefin and the billion dollar fisheries they support. After eight years of scientific development, in partnership with fishery managers and stakeholders, the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) has the opportunity to adopt a fully specified harvest strategy for this iconic species, starting a new chapter of effective and efficient management. We call on ICCAT to adopt a harvest strategy for Atlantic bluefin tuna at its November 2022 meeting, safeguarding the future of the species and heralding a new era of sustainability and stability for the fishery and market.”
Shana Miller, affiliated with harveststrategies.org, said during the event and after this statement was agreed to, “After more than a decade of effort to bring bluefin back from the brink in the Mediterranean Sea, harvest strategy adoption this year will solidify an abundant future for this Olympian of the sea, as well as the valuable fisheries that depend on it. Seafood lovers will once again be able to order bluefin with a clean conscience.”
Héctor Fernández, sustainable development manager with Bolton Food, one of Europe’s biggest stakeholders in tuna products, underlined the crucial importance of harvest strategies for the international sustainable management of tuna stocks. ‘The establishment of effective and enforceable harvest strategies are key in the global survival of the consensus-based decision-making of RFMOs to manage our tuna stocks’, Fernández said. ‘With the establishment of the harvest strategies on bluefin tuna as the first on this year’s ICCAT agenda, the sustainable sourcing of Atlantic tropical tunas on our European markets is at stake next’
Bertrand Wendling, directeur-general of the French cooperative of bluefin fisheries Sathoan confirmed the importance of ICCAT’s decision this year. ‘We often joke that every year is a bluefin tuna year for ICCAT negotiations. But this really is the biggest bluefin year of all. In 2022, we have a significant opportunity to take a giant leap forward for management of our giant bluefin tuna.’
Webinar mediator Steven Adolf, author of the book ‘Tuna Wars’ underlined the broader significance of this year’s decision on bluefin tuna. ‘Harvest strategies are not only a crown on a decade of hard work to save the stock of our iconic bluefin tuna. If ICCAT succeeds, it proves that sustainable management of tuna stocks is becoming a reality. That is a hopeful message for all tuna stocks that are increasingly endangered globally by the growing capacity of the fleets. And it is crucial that not only fisheries, but the whole chain is supporting this way to guarantee a sustainable supply of tuna. We will desperately need it.’
ICCAT will meet between 14-21 November to discuss and adopt the Atlantic bluefin tuna harvest strategy plan. For more information on harvest strategies, visit harveststrategies.org.
Notes to editors:
The Global Tuna Alliance (GTA) is an independent group of retailers and tuna supply chain companies who are committed to achieving more transparent, socially responsible, and environmentally sustainable tuna fisheries. Operating over 10,000 stores in 21 countries across five continents, they use their collective purchasing power to influence the policies set out by the tuna Regional Fisheries Management Organisations (tRFMOs).
The Tuna Protection Alliance is a precompetitive initiative driven by canned tuna market players who share the same commitment for the tuna sector to adopt better fishing practices and fisheries management, in order to restore balance and safeguard tuna resources for future generations. TUPA partners gather to pool their resources and energy, and to be able to talk with a united voice towards industry players and tRFMOs in order to bring change in the sector.
HarvestStrategies.org serves as a resource for fisheries scientists, managers, and other stakeholders, compiling information about how harvest strategies work and how implementing this pioneering management approach can lead to sustainable, profitable fisheries and successful recovery programs for many species around the world. It is managed by The Ocean Foundation’s International Fisheries Conservation Project.