ICCAT Meets in Marrakech


Bluefin tuna aboard a Winter Harbor, Maine, lobster boat. The fishery remains a small vessel fishery in the United States.

The International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna met in Marrakech, Morocco November 14-22. It was the 25th regular annual meeting of the commission. It meets at other times during the year, often in Madrid, Spain. A report on the meeting by Atlantic Bluefin Tuna Association (ABTA) Executive Director Rich Ruais can be seen at fishermensvoice.com.

Important items on the meeting’s agenda included the bluefin eastern and western Atlantic stock assessment. Ruais said that in a preliminary report the “western bluefin tuna stocks are looking good.” The stocks are 69% higher today than they were in 1974. This is a result of the conservation efforts and quota mechanisms in place, said Ruais. The efforts to clean up the unsustainable tuna fishing practices in the Mediterranean have also helped improve the health of the bluefin stocks, said Ruais.

The ABTA objective is now to increase the current 2,000 metric ton (MT) quota for the western Atlantic to 2,500 MT. That change, said Ruais, would increase the United States bluefin fishery quota by 265 MT.

“We are now seeing bluefin everywhere in New England waters, but we run out of quota rapidly. We fished only two weeks in August before running out of quota. We couldn’t fish for most of September and after six days of fishing in October we were out of quota,” said Ruais.

Ruais said tuna fishermen are facing a significant fight with environmentalists and the Pew Trusts over quota. At the same time “bluefin looks pretty good for the next three years,” said Ruais.

He said the increase in bluefin tuna in the northwest Atlantic is expected to provide an alternative for fishermen who now have reduced cod and other groundfish quota. Both catch volume and the cost of buying quota have impacted the profitability of New England ground fishing, said Ruais. Bluefin tuna remains an open access fishery for harpoon, rod and reel, handline and green stick fishing.