Pew Environment Group’s Opening Statement - ICCAT

Source Organization: Pew Environment Group

Speaker: Susan Lieberman

Venue: 21st Regular Meeting ofThe International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna

11/06/2009 - On behalf of the Pew Environment Group delegation, I want to thank everyone at the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas for allowing us the opportunity at this meeting to discuss ways to improve the conservation status of Atlantic tunas and sharks.

We appreciate that the contracting parties to ICCAT have taken steps in the past to put in place measures to protect shark populations including the 2004 binding ban on shark finning, mandatory reporting of shark catch data and compilation of shark stock assessments. However, even with these measures, much more must be done to ensure concrete management and conservation measures are in place and effectively enforced to limit shark exploitation and ensure long-term sustainable fisheries.

As top predators in the ocean, sharks play a critical role in keeping marine ecosystems healthy and the food web in balance. Yet up to 70 million sharks are killed annually for the shark fin market and scientists believe that many shark populations are threatened with extinction.  Most sharks are slow growing, mature late, and produce few young, making them especially vulnerable to overfishing and slow to recover once depleted.  Yet there are few limits on the number of sharks taken from the world’s oceans. As you know, it has now been a full decade since the United Nations called on RMFOs to prepare Regional Plans of Action for Sharks but we find that sustainable management of sharks is still largely absent around the globe.

The Pew Environment Group urges you to take strong action on sharks at this meeting by working to reach consensus on a number of key conservation measures that will help protect shark populations in the Atlantic Ocean.  Specifically, we urge you to support the following measures that will help ensure that the shark populations under ICCAT’s management purview are protected from extinction:  

  • A prohibition on the retention and landing of exceptionally vulnerable bigeye thresher sharks, as recommended by ICCAT scientists;
  • Concrete measures to ensure a significant reduction in fishing mortality of overfished North Atlantic shortfin mako sharks, in line with previous ICCAT Recommendations;
  • Precautionary measures to cap fishing for blue sharks to prevent overfishing;
  • An ambitious schedule for hosting a special porbeagle shark management meeting of representatives from interested RFMOs, as resolved in 2008; and
  • A prohibition on the removal of shark fins at sea in order to improve enforcement of the shark finning ban and facilitate collection of species-specific catch data. This will help improve enforcement of the agreed shark-finning ban from the binding 2004 recommendation and facilitate more accurate collection of species-specific catch and landings data. This is far preferable to any proposal to allow shark fins to be transported at sea in bags or other devices that separate the fins from the body of the shark.
Also of pressing concern is the status of the Atlantic bluefin tuna. For over 30 years, ICCAT has wasted countless opportunities to set science-based catch limits and curb overfishing of Atlantic bluefin. Now, populations of bluefin are nearing the point of commercial extinction. In response to this decline, the Principality of Monaco has submitted a proposal to include the Atlantic bluefin tuna on Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). ICCAT scientists this October confirmed the dire state of the Atlantic bluefin, and found that the species clearly qualifies for inclusion in CITES Appendix I at a special meeting of the Standing Committee on Research and Statistics, held 21-23 October in Madrid.
A CITES Appendix I listing for Atlantic bluefin tuna is the only enforceable and effective tool left to the international community that could prevent the bluefin’s commercial extinction and rebuild its stocks for future generations. We encourage all ICCAT Parties to support Monaco’s proposal to list Atlantic bluefin tuna on Appendix I at the CITES meeting in March 2010.  We also urge you to request that ICCAT formally provide the report of the SCRS meeting to the CITES Secretariat, for distribution to the CITES Parties.

Furthermore, you can take the critical action of supporting a zero quota for all stocks of the North Atlantic bluefin fishery at this meeting. A zero quota will show the world that ICCAT is ready to heed the science, and recognize the importance of fully alleviating fishing pressure on Atlantic bluefin until stocks recover.

The Pew Environment Group team that is here looks forward to working with all of you this week.  Please feel free to contact Matt Rand, Director, Global Shark Conservation, Pew Environment Group ( or myself (, or any of the Pew team, if we may be of any assistance.

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