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U.S. Makes Push for Bluefin Tuna Recovery at ICCAT Annual Meeting

At the 2006 annual meeting of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT), which concluded on November 26, parties adopted new management measures that provide for the long-term sustainability of swordfish, marlin and western Atlantic bluefin tuna fisheries. NOAA's Assistant Administrator for Fisheries, Bill Hogarth, is currently serving as Chairman of ICCAT. As Chair, Dr. Hogarth worked with all parties to seek consensus on measures that would address illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing, improve compliance with existing ICCAT measures, and ensure the integrity of rebuilding plans. While progress was achieved in these areas, the United States was disappointed with the final agreement on Eastern Atlantic bluefin tuna, which blatantly disregards scientific advice.

The 2006 assessment for eastern Atlantic bluefin tuna concluded that the stock is being severely over-harvested and will collapse if strong conservation measures are not implemented without delay. Although the United States and several other countries urged ICCAT members to reduce annual catches of bluefin tuna and extend the bluefin tuna closed season in the Mediterranean to include the peak spawning month of June, the European Community put forward a proposal that will continue the severe overexploitation of eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean bluefin tuna. The increasing evidence of mixing between the eastern and western stocks raises concerns over the ramifications of the new eastern bluefin management plan on the western stock.

In contrast, the United States successfully pushed for the adoption of a proposal to lower the annual catch of western Atlantic bluefin tuna from 2,700 metric tons to 2,100 metric tons, in line with scientific advice to stop overfishing. North Atlantic swordfish has been under a rebuilding program since 2000 and is now essentially recovered. The United States maintained its percentage allocation for both bluefin tuna and swordfish. The rebuilding plan for blue and white marlins was extended through 2010, including enhanced observer requirements to improve data collection.

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