From: Ellen Peel []
Sent: Tuesday, December 01, 2009 9:34 PM
To: Ellen Peel
Subject: ICCAT Summary


Recreational Fishing Commissioner’s Perspective

of the

 2009 Meeting of the

International Commission for the

Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT)


The following is a summary of the ICCAT measures taken at this year’s negotiations including comments based on my perspective (Ellen Peel) as the representative of the recreational fishing community.  Some issues raised this year will be back on the table next year, including follow up to the first Recreational and Sportfishing Working Group meeting with which we will need to significantly influence.   This year’s delegation members Ray Bogan, Rob Kramer and Dr. Russell Nelson did an excellent job in helping to secure the gains we made; I appreciate their service.     I will keep you informed prior to and after any and all inter-sessional meetings held in 2010.   While international negotiations move very slowly due to the diverse economic and cultural priorities placed on fish and fishing by member nations, it is very important for our US interests in recreational sportfishing for highly migratory species to maintain an effective and strong presence at the negotiations.  We can never let other nations think that we, as the angling community, will ever go away and not stand up for responsible conservation and management of the ocean resources.     


The 21st ICCAT meeting was held in Brazil and was preceded by a one day meeting of ICCAT’s Recreational Working Group and a two day weekend session of the Compliance Committee.  The U.S. Delegation was led by Dr. Rebecca Lent, Director of the Office of International Affairs, National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS). NOAA’s Chief of Staff Margaret Spring attended much of the meeting and was a clear demonstration of high level NOAA interest in ICCAT. I served as the Recreational Fishing Commissioner.


Working Group on Sports & Recreational Fishing

This year’s ICCAT negotiations were preceded by a one day inaugural session of the Working Group on Sports and Recreational Fishing.  The U.S. was the only nation of the 20 attending that submitted requested detailed information on the nation’s recreational fisheries. The working group acknowledged there are some socio-economic impacts derived from sport fishing, but no agreement was reached on its relative position to commercial fishing economics.  A lot of debate was generated by a European Community (EC) attempt to secure agreement to a definition of recreational and sportfishing.  While this might appear harmless, it is not.  Each nation should retain the authority to define its recreational sportfisheries, which the US has done in the US Magnuson-Stevens Act.  The EC (France specifically) suggested the definition include a distinction between recreational and sportfishing.  The way it was worded would require every angler, yes US, to be a member of a French organization for their fishery to be considered legitimate by ICCAT.  As you can imagine that suggestion received no favorable support from the US.  We know who we are and what we do, have a US legal definition, and don’t need Frenchmen putting us in categories and in a way by which they would make money.  The outcome was for each nation to “strive” to develop a definition that can be agreed upon before next year’s negotiations. Also each nation is to provide detailed descriptions of how their recreational sportfisheries operate in their national waters, which the US already submitted. 


So long as fish are federally managed within departments of commerce and/or agriculture, and not in conjunction with departments of natural resources or environment and with no influence from tourism departments, the stocks will be viewed solely as commodities for consumption.  This paradigm must change so persuasive management and conservation strategies weight positive economic impacts, compatibility with sustaining natural resources and good user ethics rather than solely overfishing and consumption.    This change will take some time, whether a listing of bluefin under the CITES treaty would help change the current paradigm; we will have to wait and see what the decision was in 2010.  The Whaling Commission was once all commercial and governmental representatives, but it went through a major shift for the better of the resource, though there has been some recent back sliding.  We must strongly urge anglers and tourism officials from other nations to secure seats on their nation’s delegation if at all possible.  Additional socio-economic studies documenting the value of recreational sportfishing are very important and must be brought into the management and conservation arenas to bring about change.         



North Atlantic swordfish measures were extended through 2010, but with a reduced Total Allowable Catch (TAC) down to 13,700 metric tons (mt), which is consistent with scientific advice.  For ICCAT this measure could be viewed as precautionary in nature.   If the 13,700 mt are exceeded in 2010 there will be a prorated reduction in quota share.  The US lost 400 mt of underage or uncaught quota that had been rolled forward.  One hundred metric tons went to Senegal which then gave it to Canada. This gain by Canada caused a great deal of angst within the US delegation.  The two primary reasons for this reaction is the high incidence of sea turtle bycatch taken in the Canadian pelagic longline fishery and the fact that the US fleets have complied with domestic sea turtle (ESA) conservation and swordfish conservation measures over the past ten years.  The US argued that those nations that have taken an ecosystem approach to conservation and management of swordfish, which subsequently benefitted all nations fishing for swordfish, should not be penalized.   We know US vessels have to try to avoid sea turtles or face not fishing if a cap is met.  Many of the turtles avoided in US waters subsequently swim to Canada, where many are killed, which further reduces the stock size and that can trigger more restrictive measures again in the US.  As you know Canada often dumps some of its swordfish tonnage into US markets and that drives the prices down for US caught swordfish entering the market at the same time.


The TAC for the South Atlantic swordfish stock was set at 15,000 mt, which falls within scientific advice, for 2010-2012 with a cap of 45,000 mt over the three-year plan. The United States retained its 100 mt quota as well as its ability to carry forward up to 100 mt of under harvest -- but agreed along with other parties to transfer some underharvest to help achieve agreement.


For Mediterranean swordfish a measure was adopted that requires additional catch permitting, reporting and monitoring requirements, including a fishing vessel register.  Unfortunately, the proposed expansion of the time/area closure recommended by the science committee (SCRS) did not pass.


Bluefin Tuna

Eastern bluefin tuna was the focus species at this year’s negotiations due to a pending petition to list it under Appendix I of the Convention on the International Trade of Endangered Species of Flora and Fauna (CITES).  Such a listing would prohibit all international trade in the species, but would not impact fishing within national waters.  CITES meets in March 2010 to make this determination.  Scientific advice recommended a TAC between 8500 mt and 15,500 mt, with a notation that a zero quota would be best to insure a recovery by 2023.  Libya recommended a zero TAC, but no nation completely supported that measure.  The EC recommended 15,500 mt.  The US said it would prefer 8,500 mt.   The final decision was 13,500 mt in 2010 (a 32% reduction from the previously agreed 2010 TAC of 19,950 mt).  This doesn’t allow for a real increase in spawning stock biomass.  We will all be interested in what next year’s bluefin stock assessment will indicate. 


A significantly expanded time and area closures for the Mediterranean bluefin fishery was approved that allows purse seine fishing to fish for only one month (May 15-June 15).  The TAC for the years 2011-2013 are to be set at the level that will ensure a 60% chance of rebuilding the stock by 2023. To achieve these reductions in catch/landings, additional vessel (capacity) reductions have to be made, as well as limits on joint fishing operations (JFO). Turkey registered reservations on those two points.


The western Atlantic bluefin rebuilding program was not reopened.


Albacore tuna

A rebuilding program was established for northern albacore through 2020 with a TAC of 28,000 mt for 2010 and 2011, which is consistent with scientific advice.  The United States accepted a 2% reduction in quota to 527 mt.  The bulk of the reduction was shouldered by the EC and Taiwan.


Bigeye tuna

A small reduction in the bigeye TAC was approved down from 90,000 mt to 85,000 mt for 2010.  No agreement was reached unfortunately on a larger time and area closure in the Gulf of Guinea.  The small fish from the Gulf migrate to the US and are important to our fisheries.  Hopefully next year we can get the needed closure approved.


Bigeye thresher sharks

A prohibition on the retention of bigeye thresher sharks was approved with an exception for Mexico’s small-scale coastal catch of less than 110 fish.


Shortfin mako sharks

No agreement was reached to benefit shortfin mako sharks for no one wanted to release their bycatch, which is the leading cause of their mortality and decline.


Porbeagle shark

No agreement was reached on landing prohibitions of porbeagle sharks.


Shark fins

A proposal to require sharks to be landed with their fins naturally attached was also not adopted.



This year’s stock assessment indicated the eastern stock of Atlantic sailfish is significantly overfished, primarily from artisanal fisheries that off Africa that consume their catches.  In response, the U.S. proposed live release of all sailfish by pelagic longline vessels.  The call to require release from the commercial vessels raised a call from other nations to release all sailfish from all vessels, including recreational.  Approximately 200 sailfish are landed each year by US anglers, most likely first time billfish catches or fish that come up dead from private and charter vessels.  The US decided to table the proposal until next year giving the US an opportunity to share the information with our sailfishing community and possibly identifying a landing cap number of fish to take back to ICCAT next year.  The stock assessment indicated that the western Atlantic stock is holding consistently stable at a slightly overfished level.  I would appreciate you helping me to expand the discussion about sailfish before our first AP meeting in 2010.   


As you know ICCAT nations primarily view sailfish, as well as marlin, only as bycatch species, like seabirds and sea turtles.  Bycatch species do not receive the same management priority by other nations as do the commercially targeted species.  The convening of the first Recreational and Sportfishing Working Group meeting raises the question whether that will help elevate the management priority of bycatch fish species?  Or was it a means to try to identify and restrain the non-commercial fisheries for the bycatch species, including billfish?  We have to keep pushing to insure it is the former and doesn’t become the latter.  Until the priority of billfish is raised to the same as the commercially targeted species, there will be continued attempts to weaken any measures for their protection, which penalizes recreational sportfisheries.    



A recent study present to our IAC and at ICCAT estimated that approximately 48,000 seabirds (various species of albatross) are killed as bycatch each year in the ICCAT fishing areas, mostly in the south Atlantic.  Measures to mitigate their bycatch were considered, but not approved.  It was an important step that the issue of seabird bycatch has been raised at ICCAT, again to get some consideration given to viewing species as other than consumptive commodities.


Sea turtles

The US proposed a measure that would have required nations to submit information on domestic efforts undertaken to protect sea turtles and to carry onboard disentanglement and release gear.  No agreement was reached.  Again it was important that this issue was raised before ICCAT.  We must try to get some of the conservation measures with which US fishing interests must comply exported and adopted by ICCAT nations; I realize that is a big uphill challenge.



Historic steps were taken by the Compliance Committee with the identification of nations that had not complied with all the ICCAT reporting requirements.  Letters of identification and concern will be sent to these nations.  Identification is the first step required before any trade sanctions can be taken against a nation.   The US, especially Chris Rogers, and his team get most of the credit for this big step.


Other approved proposals:

(1) application of the Kobe II strategy matrix to bluefin tuna and bigeye tuna following their stock assessments next year, this will place stock assessment outcomes within categories that should automatically result in management measures;   

(2) a second meeting of the Future of ICCAT Working Group will convene in Brasilia in early 2010 to consider possible changes to the ICCAT Convention and other matters to strengthen ICCAT; and  

(3) expansion of the scope of the Illegal, Unregulated and Unlicensed (IUU) vessel list to non-fishing vessels and another to expand the scope of the authorized vessel list from vessels above 24 meters to 20 meters and above.


The threat of piracy out of eastern Africa is driving some pelagic longline vessels back from the Indian Ocean into the Atlantic Ocean; two such vessels are currently being held by pirates.  Unfortunately this will increase pressure on species that are important to the US fisheries.  


Thank you for your interest and your help.  If you would like to receive more issuances, please sign up on the TBF webpage at