ICCAT Plans To Kill 13.5 Tons of Bluefin, Could Be The Last!

ICCAT has failed yet again. After long meetings the new recommendation sets the quota at for the Mediterranean and East Atlantic to 13,500 metric tons, and that is 13,500 too many. The purse seine fishery gets one month to fish (May 15 to June 15 i.e. an 11 month closure), cancellation of the of the 5 weather days and finally establishment next year of a 3 year rebuilding plan with a 60% probability of stock recovery and easily requiring another major quota reduction to somewhere between zero and 8,000 mt for 2011. In simple terms they agreed that killing more bluefin is still ok, and it's not.

The USA did not lose any quota, so kudos to Rebecca Lent at NOAA for securing this.

CITIES is the only answer. A March CITES meeting still threatens the commercial fleet's June 1 opening. The big question now is where will the US and EC stand on CITES?

I support a global outcry against these decisions. The people must speak.

Views: 131

Comment by Thunnus Thynnus on November 17, 2009 at 11:24am
What's the next step? We should step up pressure on US officials as they mull support for CITES. Any ideas, form letters, email addresses, or phone numbers we can use?
Comment by John LoGioco on November 17, 2009 at 12:09pm
Yes I will post what we can do in the next day or so once I speak with some other stakeholders. Stay tuned.
Comment by elephantmarch on November 18, 2009 at 1:30am
Yes. Who should we email and who should we call. I think the more "average shmoes" get involved with this, the more CITES and the ICCATT or whatever will realize it's not just a minority of weirdos that are upset, but public relations in general.

Of course, the biggest impact is just tabboing bluefin from your plate and just cutting back on sushi in General. I noticed when I browsed through this up-class restaraunts menu, the sushi tuna and tuna menus seemed to shout out that the tuna was albacore, which I read was one of the responsibly fished Tunas... of course that's just what I read....
Comment by Ralph Pratt on November 30, 2009 at 5:53pm
Hi John

For those who read this note I want to introduce my self before you get into the text of my comment.

I am an American commercial Bluefin tuna fisherman for almost 40 years and involved with the Bluefin issues. I harvest Bluefin with Harpoon and rod and reel for sale and take my responsibility to participate in the management of this fishery very seriously. I am a NMFS HMS Advisory Panel Member and attend all meetings. The seat that I hold is delegated to American Commercial Bluefin tuna fishermen. I try to do what I feel is the right thing for the fish and the fishermen and I appreciate that John allows me to comment on his site.

I agree to some extent with John about the 13500 Tons, I would have preferred to see 8500 (closer to the SCRS recommendation with a higher probability of rebuilding, SCRS is the scientific arm of ICCAT). I will be attending the CITES meeting in a couple of days in DC and delivering my comment at that time.
For now the following is a draft:

The long history of over fishing and flagrant disregard for ICCAT rule by ICCAT contracting party nations in the East is the result of the low level of support for ICCAT by the United States government. ICCAT was only a book of instructions for members follow voluntarily. Without pressure from leadership nations at ICCAT, greed took over in the east and Mediterranean.

For almost 20 years New England fishermen have tried to elevate the importance fishery controls in the east to the US government with little success. With the adoption of the two stock theory in the early 80’s and since, a blind eye for the mixing of the eastern and western stocks it became easy for the United States to continually overlook the excessive eastern catches. New England Fishermen have felt the effect of being ignored for a very long time both in our pocket books and in our hearts.

When I look back over the years, after an ICCAT meeting that addressed bluefin, inevitably someone from our ICCAT delegation would deliver the bad news “the west took another hit” “we have to lead by example”. Meanwhile, the only example that really needed to be followed by the east was “abide by scientific quotas as the west and American fishermen have always done.

The US government’s track record for motivating changes at ICCAT to control the over fishing in the east is very poor. The threat of CITIES seemed to improve the US negotiating strength at ICCAT in 2009. Thankfully so. Although, some domestic tools, in place, like the Magnuson-Stevens Act and the Driftnet Moratorium Protection Act which allows the U.S to deny access to lucrative US markets to countries that are practicing Illegal, Unregulated and Unreported (IUU) fishing or not employing similar ecosystem friendly fishing practices could have been used prior to the CITIES threat, but ignored by the US government in the face of multiple requests by New England Fishermen and Congress.

ICCAT recognized its failure to move the Northern Atlantic Bluefin Tuna toward MSY and began corrective action before Monaco’s CITES proposal. Commissioner Joe Borg closed the eastern fishery early in 2008 when it became evident that EC nations continued to over fish (attached is his statement at the time). ICCAT also performed an independent review of itself, identified areas needing improvement and made recommendations to move ICCAT forward. Headway in compliance and data reporting are very evident in 2009. SCRS noted that data from contracting parties is available and the release of bluefin stock from farms whose countries exceeded quota allocation has made headline news.

At the 2009 annual meeting, the Commission agreed to stronger measures that will be implemented in the 2010 fishing season. And, according to an ICCAT news release “These changes are expected to accelerate rebuilding of the stock to levels that can produce maximum catches at sustainable levels”.

Some of these changes are:

- A lower TAC of 13,500 tons in 2010.

- An agreement to establish a rebuilding plan that will allow the stock to rebuild with 60% probability.

-Reductions in fishing capacity, at least 50% in 2011, 20% in 2012 and 5% in 2013

- A limit on the number of joint fishing operations that can be carried out.

- An observer program with 100% coverage of purse seine and farming activities.

- A comprehensive catch documentation system.

- Reporting of catches close to real-time

-A closed fishing season that covers a large part of the spawning duration

All of these with the following caveat that; if the SCRS stock assessment detects a serious threat of fishery collapse, the Commission shall suspend all the fisheries for eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean bluefin tuna in 2011.

The fact remains that vast amounts of Atlantic Bluefin that are landed get exported to markets outside the country from which they are caught. Because of that, a properly functioning ICCAT, supported by leadership nations would be very similar to a CITES Management Authority for a state. Both would regulate trade of the Bluefin species. ICCAT does so by controlling quota and thereby limiting the amount traded, CITES appendix 1 could stop all trade but could not guarantee a complete closure like the caveat achieved at ICCAT.

I’m not for CITIES because I believe a stronger ICCAT is better for the 14 species it manages, as fishing effort is reduced on one species it is likely that the effort could be redirected toward other HMS species. A stronger ICCAT would be more capable of recognizing and managing these types of changes, CITIES takes power away from ICCAT at a time when empowerment is needed more than ever.


Ralph Pratt
Bluefin Fishermen
Spotter Pilot
NOAA/NMFS HMS Advisory Panel member
Comment by John LoGioco on November 30, 2009 at 8:43pm
Ralph, first know that you are always welcome to comment here. I and the members of this growing network value your input and overall commitment to saving the bluefin tuna from collapse. Full disclosure, I spent time with Ralph this summer both on his harpoon boat with his son and in his spotter plane. The epic video of that trip can be seen here. As usual I think we agree on more points that we disagree. Simply put the huge problem I have is trying to explain to average people the dynamics that lead us into the dire situation we are in today.

Let me explain. In the last year thousands if not millions of average people now know that the bluefin tuna is in serious trouble and the managers of this fishery and the harvesters have not taken sufficient measures to avoid a collapse. But then the question becomes why are we doing this to the bluefin tuna? The simple, but yet embarrassing fact is that we are relentlessly killing these fish to freeze and send to foreign nations, mostly Japan, for wealthy people to dine on. Are we curing a disease here? no. Are we feeding a people in need? no. We are simply feeding an indulgence that's based on luxury. This is embarrassing to explain. As you will see on this site, there are many efforts by young college students doing thesis' and projects around the plight of the bluefin tuna. In fact one student in Tokyo is taking up a school wide collection to help save the bluefin. How do we explain the recent ICCAT decisions to kill another 13.5 metric tons of bluefin in 2010 to them? I can't find the words.

I know you love the bluefin tuna. In fact you are one of a handful of people on his planet who has seen millions of these fish in the wild. I ask myself, are you willing to trade the future of the bluefin to feed an out of control luxurious culinary indulgence?

As for ICCAT, I sympathize with you that an international body is the answer to successfully manage the fish species that roam the oceans. However, the current ICCAT regime does not look like the answer for the bluefin that needs help now. At this point, with such depressed stocks, the decision process should have a simple lighthouse, and that is; "Is This The Best Decision For The Bluefin?" So a decision to kill another 13.5 metric tons of fish, and allow the illegal fishing to take another swat at the remaining stocks seems unwise. ICCAT itself pegs it's chances of success at 60%. Read another way it's also a 40% chance of failure. That is awfully high chance of failure and one that I am not willing to accept.

Additionally, the other clause that I cannot explain to young people is the decision to kill bluefin tuna when they are spawning. I am aware that the 2010 killing period had been reduced, but again it's not enough at this point. I challenge anyone to provide a good argument for why we are killing bluefin tuna at the very point they are trying to ensure their survival.

I have been public with my support of the Amercian bluefin tuna harpoon and rod and reel fishery. I have no issue with taking bluefin tuna this way, under a sustainable quota. So this is not an attack on all harvesters, but rather a call for collective pressure to not accept the chance our beloved bluefin stocks can collapse. What if the stocks do collapse and fall the way of the Northern Cod - where they could not find their way back into the natural order and have yet to rebound? I don't want that on my hands, on my watch, to explain to college students 10 years from now who titles a thesis, "Why The Bluefin Tuna Collpased."

The sleeping giant here is public opinion. I can only hope that the current decision makers know the upwelling of global public opinion on this issue. I know, for myself, that if the bluefin falls into a state of collapse, I will hold myself as responsible as anyone else for not doing more of making my voice heard before it's too late.

As always I thank you for the time you take to get into the conversation here on this network. I only hope that we fly in again in your plane in 10 years time and see the same number of beautiful bluefin tuna swimming off your shores as we did this year.
Comment by richard ruais on December 1, 2009 at 4:00am
John:

I'm sorry but your commentary "ICCAT Plans to Kill......." is way off the mark. I have to be quick because I need to prepare comments for a Fish and Wildlife Service hearing on CITES tomorrow in DC and deal with a few other significant matters.

ICCAT 2009 in Recife, Brazil, where I was for 11 days, was a monumental and irreverrsible event that will lead to rebuilding Northern Atlantic bluefin tuna, which honestly is not in danger of extinction or being wiped out. I have attended every ICCAT meeting and most intersessionals since 1991. The latest 2008 stock assessment for the East suggest 5 million fish are swimming with about a million of these of spawning age. The western Atlantic spawning stock with varying estimates is 5 to 10 times smaller, thus there are considerable ABT around. As you know, when one speaks about bluefin you have to always note the remarkableness of the animal. For example, the stock assessment also indicates that despite an incredible drop in spawning stock biomass in the Mediterranean, in recent years, recruitment has increased by more than a quarter of a million fish annually. Genetic experts have a term for this, but in short, it is a species response to self preservation. BFT are pretty good at this since they have been fished since the Roman empire period, abused horribly in the Mediterranean since the 1996 introduction of farms and fattening but given the dire predictions of the west going extinct since 1981, western BFT are not just still ticking but 2009 will go down as our best fishery since 2003.

In short, BFT are not in danger of going extinct. There are alot of entities making a fortune wishing this to be the case. There are a lot of very well paying employment opportunities to attempt to make this case. I was just surrounded by a room full for 10 days.

And then there are the people on the water and folks like me, that say hell no, you can't have our fish or fishery. ICCAT has been a disgrace with a one-sided, joke of a conservation plan promulgated, sorry to say, by the US government. But U.S. fishermen have done all requested to conserve. US fishermen have also dug deeply into their own pockets to fund the essential research necessary to allow a somewhat better biological understanding of this complex fish, stocks and their migration and life history.

There is so much more but for now, Ralph's comment below is on the mark..

Rich Ruais
American Bluefin Tuna Association
603-898-tuna
Comment by John LoGioco on December 13, 2009 at 2:02pm
Thanks Rich for joining the network and adding value to the conversation. I know you, Ralph Pratt and others have spent years inside "tuna politics" and at the end of the day want to see more bluefin swimming in the oceans. Your input is always welcome here. For the sake of the membership, please take a moment to consider a different viewpoint from someone who also cares about the future of the bluefin but does not have a detailed history like yourself. I am in this position as are the 700+ people tied to this site and the many millons of others who now know about this issue. In short here are the simple principles that are making people upset;

1.) ICCAT has not followed the advice of scientists. The choices of the organization have always opted to kill more fish than recommended, including this latest round in Brazil.

2.) Any day that a commercial boat can kill a spawning bluefin, during spawning season, is not acceptable given the goals of trying to re-build the stocks.

3.) The notion that these tuna are "your" fish, or somehow the property of the harvester community is not correct. The business of harvesting is absoultely yours, but the fish themselves are the right of the people. And to date the people, to their discredit have not taken proper care of this position or the procedure in managing the resource.

4.) The best decison if we are looking out for the fish that swim off our coasts, is a closure in the Med. I know you know how many fish swam off our coast this summer. I was up in Ralph's plane and saw them for myself. Why should we not protect these fish as best we can? Is a closure in the Med. not the best move we can make here? I spoke with many bluefin diehards, who are on the water everyday, and they say as much as 30% of the smaller fish swimming off our coasts originate from the Med. Are we protecting our fish the best we can with the latest 13.5 metric ton quota?

5.) Closing the bluefin fishery to international trade will set a precedant for future closures. I would be more concerned of rampant future closures if the bluefin stocks collpase under ICCAT's recent plans. A 60% chance of success (read 40% of failure) is a huge gamble. Would you set sail on a fishing trip if you had a 40% chance of sinking?

So, I might be "off the mark" as you say from the international harvester point of view, but not for the millions of other people looking at this issue. As I have publicly stated I am a supporter of the US commercial harpoon & rod/reel fleets. However I am not a supporter of the seine fishieries given the status of the stocks. I used to work on a salmon seiner and know the power that such a method employs.

I know you are fighting to keep the US fisherman fishing, and trying to uphold a price that makes it all worth it. But I do ask, that you try and step back and ask yourself, why are we pounding these fish so hard? Do they deserve it? Why are we bringing these fish down to levels that are sparking such international argument? The answer is we're pounding the bluefin for the enjoyment of rich people, mostly in Japan, simply to eat a luxury item. It's not like we're curing some exotic disease here. This is the single most important point that young people cannot grasp. Even young people from Japan. As I have said before, try bringing the declining population graph for the last 30 years and the most recent ICCAT decisions to your local University for a sanity check. It just doesn't make common sense, and all the rules and management details become noise in the aftermath of such decison making.
Comment by richard ruais on December 14, 2009 at 7:31am
John: Your heart is in the right place and all your efforts to protect bluefin are respected and appreciated by all. Just a few comments here and then I will post the anti-CITES bluefin petition that I hope all your readers will consider.

1. the East has not followed the science, the western fishermen have not only followed it but commercial General, Harpoon and other category fishermen have spent more than a million dollars since I have been involved improving the science so we can someday have effective, efficient and equitable conservation of the mixing metapopulations of Atlantic bluefin prospering in the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea. We ponied up monies for the first aerial surveys, the first acoustic migration surveys, the first electronic tags and continuing independent world class scientific independent science on how to incorporate complex mixing patterns into a stock assessment and conservation program. So we should never be lumped into the phrase "ICCAT has not followed the science"

2) This is not always true John in fishery biology or management. I know this will sound counterintuitive to you, but in some fisheries it makes perfect biological and economic sense to fish on spawning aggregations. The conditions generally require that the fish is of a size that it has spawned at least once (minimum size set above size at sexual maturity) and that the number of spawning fish caught is included and specified within a conservation management plan.

3. Yes, I should have said "our fishery" not "our fish". The US bluefin fishery (i.e. 57% of the western conservative yield) collectively is available to the US fishery stakeholders. The bluefin are not in the water simply to admire but to provide protein, economy, recreational activity and we are privileged to catch them and have a responsibility to conserve the same situation for generations to come.

4. I know you mean to say 13,500 mt -- this is the new eastern quota not 13.5. And a new study (see below) indicates that between 33 and 83% of the Angling category fish comprise our catch off Mid-Atlantic shores.

5. the better analogy, is would I go to a casino with 60% odds of winning and this answer is I will probably win. 60% in fisheries management is very acceptable probablity; considered precautionary by many given the limited understanding of the resource with the exception of high fecundity and incredible distribution range.

Your last paragraph is too filled with inappropriate emotion (e.g. "Do the fish deserve it?") for fishery management. This is something PETA would ask through naked Hollywood stars. I am not Japanese, I am not rich and I insist upon having sustainable bluefin sashimi available for me and my families diet, health and longetivity. I am a human being and I deserve to eat healthy, which means a diet heavy in fish including tunas.

Here is the online petition:

CITES Listing for Bluefin Tuna Still Moving Forward

Despite an incredible breakthrough at ICCAT in Brazil last month getting the Mediterranean bluefin fisheries under control and following the scientific advice, the inside word is that the Department of Interior’s US Fish and Wildlife Service continues to move forward with a CITES 1 (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Flora and Fauna) listing. A CITES 1 listing will ban all international trade. The push for CITES is largely the result of what Congressman Barney Frank calls “some of the more rigid environmentalists” such as (my identification) PEW Charitable Trusts, World Wildlife Fund, Greenpeace and Oceanna, all likely and possible with some level of PEW financing.

Northern Atlantic bluefin tuna is not remotely in danger or threatened with extinction. The latest 2008 stock assessment for the East and West suggest 5.2 million fish are prospering in the Atlantic Ocean; more than a million of these of spawning age. This population constitutes enormous reproduction potential and can rebuild the entire Atlantic very rapidly as occurred with swordfish 3 years ahead of schedule.

Please consider signing the bluefin anti-CITES listing petition found at:

http://www.petitiononline.com/tuna09/petition.html

Here are the major reasons why a CITES listing is wrong and potentially counterproductive to the long term health of the resource and the fishery.

• First, as noted above, northern Atlantic bluefin tuna are not remotely close to being endangered with extinction; nor could fishermen chase down the last several hundred pairs of a highly fecund tuna (millions of eggs), widely distributed from Argentina to Norway. The latest 2008 ICCAT SCRS stock assessment provides no evidence or suggestion of a threat of the northern Atlantic bluefin tuna (BFT) going biologically extinct. I have not seen any suggestion by any mainstream, credible bluefin tuna scientists to the effect that there is any significant level of capability of a fishery or mankind to fish to extinction a species with the reproductive strategy of a highly migratory, highly fecund, widely distributed tuna species such as the Atlantic bluefin tuna.
• Catch rates would be uneconomic for fishermen to undertake the pursuit of the last several hundred or several thousand pairs of mature BFT.
• The latest ICCAT stock assessment estimates that in the east Atlantic alone there are now about 5 million bluefin prospering and mixing in the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea. 1 million of these are spawners (meaning 4 years old and above in the East). Just to give you an idea our total catch is usually under 15,000 fish from all US fisheries with the population estimated at about 170,000 fish. Many of the fish we catch are eastern origin as demonstrated by a new scientific paper (based on microconstituent PCB variation between east and west fish) establishing that between 33 and 83% of our Mid-Atlantic catch of Angling category size fish are of Mediterranean origin.
• Judging by the Canadian fishery performance the last several years we have plenty of western spawners with rapid quota achievement with 700 to 1,100 lb fish prior to the main body of fish making the journey to the Gulf of Mexico to spawn and replenish the western metapopulation. Many scientists now seem to prefer describing BFT as “metapopulations” or “contingent hypothesis” group theories with one of the implications being survival of the species even if one or more of the sub-populations is under extreme stress and fishing pressure(such as the eastern Atlantic). Stock assessments repeatedly indicate that the western contingent has been stable for about 30 years at a lower than historical level i.e 1960’s and 70’s levels.
• The view described above would be the proper context to view the potential eastern “fishery collapse” of a contingent or assemblage i.e. there is no threat of extinction to the stock. In the west we have already noticed the drop in Eastern catches to about 19,000 mt (from a potential high catch in excess of 61,000 mt) confirmed by SCRS with increased abundance of juveniles supporting exceptional and valuable recreational fishing here, many of which are released.
• Table 4 of the latest stock assessment suggests the capacity of the eastern Atlantic spawning stock to compensate. In the last 10 years the average spawning stock biomass has dropped almost in half but the average recruitment has increased by a quarter of million fish. A stock recruitment relationship cannot be the justification for an argument of extinction or CITES listing.
• Even though the historic BFT fisheries collapsed in the Norwegian Sea, North Sea and Brazil, landings have since been reported. The collapse of the Nordic fisheries some 51 years ago still yielded catches over 100 tons in the 1990’s. And, the Brazilian fishery reported 13 tons in 1999 after the collapse in the 1960’s. Clearly an uneconomic fishery situation, but no doubt some evidence that collapsed fisheries cannot be interpreted as being based on extinction of the populations once supporting strong fisheries reported to ICCAT.
• In 1989 the Southern Bluefin tuna stock collapse was accepted by the participating fishing nations when the total catch dropped to the 10,000 to 15,000 mt level. 20 years later the Total Allowable Catch for the “collapsed” fishery is now set by the CCCSBT (one of the ICCATs of the Pacific) at 11,810 mt. Another example to demonstrate that with a highly migratory, highly fecund tuna species -- collapse of the fishery is not an indication of a threat of extinction of the species.
• The U.S. Delegation struggled for nearly 20 years to get the east and Mediterranean under control. In 2009 the convergence of a world “spotlight” being shined on the continuing Mediterranean bluefin abuse and high U.S. government level participation and involvement in the ICCAT Brazil meeting produced an irreversible change of course down a conservative path for eastern bluefin. The CITES threat worked and all the ENGO’s contributing have our thanks for contributing to finally forcing the European Community to get matters under control.
• The key issue controlling the future health of BFT is what just happened in Brazil at ICCAT in November 2009; even though the NOAA/FWS objective of immediately getting the East down to below 8,000 mt was not the outcome, the new quota of 13,500 is remarkable, it is consistent with the SCRS advice of a quota between 8- to 15,000 and the extended spawning closure (i.e. elimination of weather days and an 11 month purse seine closure) is incredible protection down from catches of 50,000 mt and higher
• The plan adopted by ICCAT this year requires an eastern TAC and bluefin rebuilding plan beginning in FY 2011 that has a 60% probability of achieving a biomass that allows Maximum Sustainable Yield (i.e. Bmsy) by 2023. While the precise TAC will be based on the 2010 stock assessment yet to occur, the current stock assessment would strongly suggest that this requirement will result in a TAC of less than 8000 mt beginning in FY2011 --perhaps substantially so.
• Also keep in mind this reduction in fishing mortality in the east has a double benefit for the future health of the western stock. It will substantially reduce the fishing mortality rate on western origin fish when they have migrated east and are subject to eastern fisheries. It will also increase the contribution of eastern origin fish that migrate west and enter our western fishery and, thereby, reduce the proportion of western orgin fish caught in the western fishery--ie. this reduces the fishing mortality rate on western origin fish.
• We also point out the Chairman of ICCAT in Recife Brazil Dr. Fabio Hazin proclaimed the “days of funny numbers are over at ICCAT”. This is further evidence the course change is irreversible.
• NOAA Chief of Staff Margret Spring, Dr. Rebecca Lent and Dr. Chris Rogers (Compliance Committee Chair) have provided an unprecedented breakthrough of enormous proportions in Brazil. The support of Senator Olympia Snowe, Senator Kerry and many colleagues was huge including passing a major Senate Resolution demanding eastern conservation. All of the major objectives set forth in the Senate Resolution were achieved at ICCAT.
• The breakthrough in Brazil for BFT Atlantic wide is irreversible just as it has been for swordfish. The swordfish biomass is now larger than necessary to produce MSY (being at 1.05 BMSY). In fact, in 2009 the swordfish quota was reduced by 300 tons just as a precaution to make sure the stoc k remains over rebuilt. From the European Community to North African producers, the message has been received to fix the problem and it is being fixed expeditiously.
• With the eyes of the World upon them the EC has finally spent the money to develop monitoring and control mechanisms to keep the catches within the scientific advice. The farms also accept the necessary change. It should not go unnoticed that 3 farms and 1 trap, under government mandates, released fish in captivity at considerable expense once the monitoring indicated the countries had met their 2009 quota.
• A CITES listing at this point could and likely will damage and undermine this progress. It would likely force countries to take formal “RESERVATIONS” which could spread like a western wildfire. Japan has objected 7 times to any CITES listing of any marine species. It is likely that Japanese markets will remain open to BFT if CITES 1 is obtained. Libya, Turkey, Algeria, Taiwan, Philippines, etc. would seek windfall profits to supply shortages from countries likely to abide by the CITES decision. A CITES listing will likely encourage Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing, which ICCAT has been seriously fighting and reducing for years. Meanwhile American fishermen will pay the price for abiding by the law, the science and conserving. We have been doing more, with larger minimum sizes in particular, than any other country to conserve bluefin tuna.
• A CITES listing will not produce zero catches. Even under a moratorium, the stock assessment is fishery dependent requiring some level of catches to know the status and level of improvement of the stocks in response to the rebuilding measures.
• A CITES listing would be insulting to the US ICCAT Delegation, NOAA/NMFS, etc., all who worked hard to produce this monumental change. A CITES listing would hurt the most compliant BFT fishermen in the world: the US fishermen. Just what kind of message does that send? American fishermen are not the cause of current CITES momentum and have always followed bluefin scientific advice and abided by international quotas.
• Even though the U.S. is a net importer of bluefin tuna, our markets cannot absorb our legitimate domestic production in the limited time the fish are available for production (the bulk of catch coming in 5 months June through October). Prices would likely crash and economically cripple the fishery injuring commercial tuna fishermen. The stigma of a CITES listing is exploited by radical ENGO’s with consumers and demand is permanently damaged, as has been the case with the “Give Swordfish a Break” campaign.
• A CITES listing is not the remedy for the Eastern/Mediterranean past failure to conserve. Nor does it take the place of proper fishery management or create the political will to empower ICCAT to do the right job.
Please take one more minute to sign the anti-CITES Petition and pass the link on to all who care about long term bluefin tuna Atlantic wide conservation.
http://www.petitiononline.com/tuna09/petition.html
Rich Ruais
American Bluefin Tuna Association
Blue Water Fishermen’s Asociation
Comment by John LoGioco on December 15, 2009 at 1:59pm
Rich thanks for taking the time to provide additional insight into these issues. Getting a glimpse of "tuna politics" from your perspective is fascinating and helpful. I do applaud and support the efforts of Amercian bluefin fishermen and the ABTA to get better data / science on these fish. In the end, this will always be the key to successful management. On behalf of the membership thanks for posting as you will always be welcome here.
Comment by TokyoTom on December 20, 2009 at 1:13am
John, here`s the comment I sent by email; I`ll post it on your new thread too:

While I am very concerned about the bluefin, isn`t the problem overfishing in the eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean, and aren`t the US and US fisherman now responsibly managing/catching bluefin in the western Atlantic and Caribbean?

I do not see that a CITES App. I listing would be needed or fair if it applies to western stocks fished by US fishermen. Is there any likelihood of such a distinction being made? It does not seem apparent in the rhetoric of the envtl groups, but maybe I`ve missed it. For the heavily over-fished stocks, I support CITES as a club, but the real answer lies in ending the tragedy of the commons by giving fishermen ownership rights in the resource - percentage of allocated take - so they have secure rights and incentives to invest in long-term sustainability rathter than in a short-term ruinous race. There are legitimate concerns that a CITES listing would lead to greater IUU lawlessness by fishers from nations that make reservations to CITES.

American fishermen could aid their cause by teaming with MSC or another certifying agency to market their catch as sustainable, and thereby capture the best market prices. Likewise, we really need SMART consumer pressure; if there was a way consumers around the world could distinguish from western vs.eastern/Med take, and permitted vs. IUU take, it would really put leverage on eastern fishermen to get their act in order and police themselves.

On the consumer side, I`m a bit surprised that there doesn`t appear to be any organized Japanese consumer movement to distinguish between sustainable, legal and IUU take. Are you aware of anything? I sense a market opportunity to provide information to concerned consumers here ...

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