Oceana seeks protections for sharks at ICCAT meeting
OCEANA OPENING STATEMENT
22nd Regular Meeting of ICCAT
November 11, 2011
Oceana appreciates this opportunity to participate as observers to the 22nd Regular
Meeting of the Commission in Istanbul, Turkey. We hope that this year’s Commission
meeting will be an opportunity to discuss and adopt measures that ensure the
sustainability of fisheries for Atlantic highly migratory species and minimize bycatch in
In the past few years, there have been numerous proclamations on the efficacy, or lack
thereof, of ICCAT in conserving highly migratory species of tunas and sharks. Despite a
Convention objective of conserving tuna and tuna-like species in the Atlantic Ocean and
adjacent seas, it is clear that unmanaged fisheries and overfishing remain major issues.
This is especially true for most species of sharks and Mediterranean swordfish, which
still lack proper management or conservation measures. In addition, ICCAT fisheries
continue to kill vulnerable by-catch species such as marine mammals and sea birds.
Highly Migratory Sharks
Highly migratory sharks, which are especially vulnerable to overfishing, are caught in
ICCAT fisheries both as targeted and incidental catch, but most have yet to be managed
as required by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. In addition, the
ICCAT shark finning ban contains some weaknesses, which limit its ability to effectively
prohibit finning from occurring. Finally, ICCAT reporting requirements for sharks are
unclear and can contribute to under-reporting of shark catches.
To remedy these issues, Oceana calls on the ICCAT Contracting Parties to:
1. Prohibit retention of endangered or particularly vulnerable shark species,
especially porbeagle and silky sharks.
2. Establish science-based precautionary catch limits for blue and shortfin mako sharks.
3. Require reporting of catch data as a prerequisite for landing a particular shark species.
4. Improve the ICCAT finning prohibition by requiring that sharks be landed with
their fins wholly or partially attached in a natural manner.
Management of Mediterranean swordfish has repeatedly been neglected to the detriment
of the species. According to the ICCAT Standing Committee for Research and Statistics
(SCRS), this stock is overexploited with spawning biomass below sustainable levels,
overfishing is occurring, and 50-70% of catches are comprised of juvenile fish. Moreover
the ICCAT SWO-Med catching vessels list established through Recommendation [09-04]
has been demonstrated to be useless in meeting the Recommendation’s objectives.
The complete absence of real management measures makes the Mediterranean swordfish
fishery an open access one. Therefore, the adoption of a comprehensive, enforceable
management plan for Mediterranean swordfish must be a priority for ICCAT Parties.
Oceana strongly urges ICCAT Contracting Parties to adopt a sustainable management
plan intended to recover the stock including, at a minimum:
• A vessel list exclusively authorizing Mediterranean surface longliners to catch swordfish,
• A Mediterranean catch limit in accordance with scientific advice,
• A Minimum landing size in accordance with the most recent science,
• A Capacity assessment to be undertaken by SCRS to be used in future revisions of the
• Deterrent measures for those Mediterranean states that continue to harbour illegal driftnets
in violation of Recommendation [03-04]
Vulnerable Bycatch Species
Numerous vulnerable species are caught as bycatch in ICCAT fisheries including sea
turtles, marine mammals and sea birds. Oceana calls on ICCAT Contracting Parties to put
in place a system that includes mandatory reporting of catches of these bycatch species,
assessments of the impact of ICCAT fisheries on these species and mitigation measures
to reduce bycatch.
In Conclusion, this year’s Commission meeting offers an opportunity to adopt warranted
measures for sharks, Mediterranean swordfish and vulnerable by-catch species. Oceana
calls on the ICCAT Contracting Parties to adopt strong measures that ensure future
sustainability of both ICCAT fisheries and bycatch species.