Conservation of Atlantic Tunas

EESC opinion: Conservation of Atlantic Tunas


The European Union has been since 14 November 1997 a contracting party to the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT convention), which provides a framework for regional cooperation on the conservation and management of tunas and tuna-like species in the Atlantic Ocean and the adjoining seas.

The ICCAT has the authority to adopt binding recommendations for the conservation and management of the fisheries under its purview. These acts are essentially addressed to the ICCAT contracting parties, but also contain obligations for private operators (e.g. vessel masters). They enter into force six months following their adoption and must, in the case of the EU, be enacted into Union law.

The present transposition proposal relates to the measures adopted by ICCAT since 2008, with the exception of the multiannual recovery plan for bluefin tuna in the eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean, which was subject to a separate transposition process. The main elements of the proposal are as follows:

Subject matter and scope: the proposed regulation seeks to lays down management, conservation and control provisions relating to fishing for highly migratory fish species managed by ICCAT. It shall apply to the Union vessels fishing in the ICCAT convention area or, in the case of transhipments, in the area outside the ICCAT convention area for species caught in the ICCAT convention area.

ICCAT management measures: the proposal states that the ICCAT management measures are divided into seven chapters per individual species: (i) tropical tunas; (ii) North Atlantic albacore; (iii) swordfish (Atlantic swordfish as well as Mediterranean swordfish); (iv) blue marlin and white marlin; (v) sharks; (vi) sea-birds (caught as by-catch) and (vii) turtles (caught as by-catch).

Common control and monitoring measures on:

  • the ICCAT record of large scale vessels which is a list, maintained by the ICCAT  Secretariat, of large scale fishing vessels authorised to  target ICCAT species in the ICCAT Convention Area;
  • chartering;
  • control of catches, and notably compliance with quotas and minimum size requirements, catch sampling and catch and fishing effort notification;
  • transhipment;
  • scientific observer programmes;
  • reporting obligations with regard to designated ports and points of contact and with regard to port inspections;
  • enforcement and specifically with alleged infringements and non-compliances and ICCAT draft IUU list, to wit, a list of vessels flying the flag of non-Contracting parties, which are considered by ICCAT to have engaged in illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing.

Final provisions: measures are proposed as regards the annual report, confidentiality of data, procedure for amendments, exercise of the delegation, implementation and amendments to the existing Union legislation.

Relevant EESC opinions

Key points

The EESC welcomes the transposition into EU law of the measures adopted since 2008 by the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT). The Committee urges the European Commission to play a more assertive role in this and other regional fisheries management organisations (RFMOs).