Following 8 days of lengthy negotiations, the 23rd special meeting of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) concluded with significant signs of progress towards the improved management and conservation of fisheries in the ICCAT convention area.
Among the meeting’s successes was the approval of a proposal to implement a 15-year plan to rebuild the endangered Mediterranean albacore stock, continuing through to 2036. This measure was brought by the European Union, Egypt and Turkey and was celebrated by the GTA.
In terms of the management objectives for western Atlantic skipjack tuna, it was positive that the proposal was approved. However, the exact numbers for the reference points are still pending and the levels which are required to achieve maximum sustainable yield are yet to be determined. Therefore the proposal mandates a 2023 inter-sessional meeting to develop initial operational management objectives.
Despite some wins, there were also losses where progress stalled. An agreement was not reached on the recommendation of a new multi-annual conservation and management programme for tropical tunas, a major ask for the GTA. There were prolonged negotiations between CPCs around allocation and total allowable catch (TAC), which hindered the progress of discussions regarding improvements of the conservation measures as a whole. Ultimately, this resulted in the rollover of the measures from 2021, with the condition of an inter-sessional meeting to address the unresolved issues.
Chris Brown, Senior Director Sustainable Supply Chains at ASDA, a GTA partner, said: “We want to support the work that is being done to improve the sustainability and sourcing of tunas because it’s a great product and we want to continue to have it on our shelves and our customers to be able to purchase it without having any concerns.”
Commenting on ICCAT’s progress, Albert Arthur, Director of Outreach and Engagement at the GTA said: “The GTA welcomes the decision by members of the ICCAT to support the conservation and management of tuna in the Atlantic. These negotiations are always tough, and at times it was uncertain as to whether we would see significant progress this year.
Although it was somewhat disappointing to have measures from last year rolled over, the approval of the proposal to rebuild the Mediterranean albacore stock shows what can be achieved when competitors join forces and call for the same thing. The market is advocating for sustainable tuna and ICCAT has demonstrated that it is possible to reach an agreement when this is the shared objective.”