Highs and Lows from the ICCAT

Hope everyone had a pleasant Thanksgiving.  I’m officially back in action, though a little bit pudgier.

Previously I (and several marine bloggers) have written about the sad state of the Mediterranean tuna fishery.  Since then the ICCAT has met to discuss exactly that fishery, and the other migratory pelagics that are also affected by it.  As usual in ocean conservation, there’s bad news, but more unusually, good news as well.

First, the bad news: bluefin tuna are still screwed.  That’s right, no consensus on tuna quotas was reached, and overharvesting will probably continue to be the order of the day.  With the Atlantic bluefin tuna’s other main spawning ground situated at Ground Zero for the Deepwater Horizon disaster, we may be telling our children about these huge fish the same way we tell them about sabretooth tigers, mammoths, and dinosaurs.

Then the good news: while tuna are screwed, some sharks got unprecedented protections.  The retention of oceanic whitetip sharks is now prohibited, retaining hammerheads is prohibited except for developing countries (and even then those countries aren’t allowed to export their fins), and more controls have been put on shortfin makos.  Proposals to prohibit the retention of porbeagles and thresher sharks failed, but this makes the ICCAT, for all its flaws, much more effective than CITES in promoting shark conservation.

Now if we could just fix that tuna fishery…