Today in Morocco the annual meeting of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) wrapped up. Contrary to its name, the ICCAT oversees more than just tuna, regulating a variety of highly migratory fish including several kinds of shark in the Atlantic and surrounding seas.
The takeaway from this year's ICCAT meeting was two-fold: for the beleaguered bluefin tuna which has been subject to extremely high fishing pressure in recent decades ICCAT acted prudently, leaving 2013 catch limits largely the same, even as tuna stocks showed signs of recovery. It was a welcome development from an organization that has sometimes put the interests of the fishing industry ahead of those of the fish.
But for vulnerable and largely unregulated species of shark like the porbeagle and shortfin Mako, ICCAT sat on its hands, rejecting measures that would set limits on mako and failing to adopt science-based proposals to protect endangered porbeagles.
In the New York Times Green blog, Oceana Europe fisheries campaign manager Maria Jose Cornax called the inaction on sharks “a baffling, contradictory approach".
"ICCAT must remove its blinders and look beyond this one fish [bluefin tuna] to the many other stocks for which it is responsible,” she said.
Shark expert and Oceana Europe marine wildlife scientist Dr. Allison Perry condemned the abandonment of sharks at this year’s meeting.
“ICCAT has failed to assume their responsibility for managing shark fisheries in the Atlantic. Allowing stocks to become seriously depleted, and then prohibiting their capture does not qualify as responsible management. Sharks represent more than 15% of all reported catches in ICCAT, yet most sharks caught in ICCAT fisheries remain completely unmanaged.”
Do you want the good news or the bad news first? Let’s start with the bad:
In a new report released this week, the International Programme on the State of the Ocean (IPSO) warns that ocean life is "at high risk of entering a phase of extinction of marine species unprecedented in human history”.
The preliminary report from IPSO is the result of the first-ever interdisciplinary international workshop examining the combined impact of all of the stressors currently affecting the oceans, including pollution, warming, ocean acidification, overfishing and hypoxia.
It turns out that the confluence of overfishing, pollution and climate change is worse than previously thought, as Oceana’s Senior Vice President and Chief Scientist Mike Hirshfield explains to CBS News in this clip:
Oceana could win 30.000€ (more than $40,000) to protect threatened seamounts in the Mediterranean, but only if you vote!
A week from today marks the one year anniversary of the BP oil spill, and the effects of the spill on the gulf’s ecosystems and wildlife are beginning to come into view, though the full effects won’t be understood for years.
This week the New York Times published an overview of the latest findings. The good news is that although miles of marsh are still oiled and tar balls continue to wash up on beaches, the Gulf of Mexico can thank its oil-eating bacteria for digesting some of the crude oil and the methane gas.
Not all the news is so good, however. Here are some of the latest findings about Gulf wildlife:
As ICCAT continues this week in Paris, we have a new report out today that ought to get the delegates’ attention. Our report estimates that more than 1.3 million highly migratory sharks were caught in the Atlantic Ocean during 2008 -- and without international fisheries management.
Of the 21 sharks species reported to be caught in ICCAT waters in 2008, three quarters are classified as threatened with extinction in parts of the Atlantic Ocean, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Yet sharks remain all but unmanaged by ICCAT, with the exception of a weak finning ban and a prohibition on retaining bigeye thresher sharks.
And what’s more, Oceana scientists believe that 1.3 million sharks is a gross underestimate. In 2008, 11 out of the 48 countries that participate in ICCAT did not report any shark catches and current shark catch data in ICCAT is generally acknowledged to be inadequate at best. In fact, scientific estimates based on Hong Kong shark fin trade data have shown that real shark catches in the Atlantic may be more than three times higher than what is reported to ICCAT.
Yesterday the 17th Special Meeting of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) began in Paris, France. Oceana is in Paris with this simple message for the ICCAT delegates: Restore depleted bluefin tuna and shark populations.
Oceana’s chief scientist and head-of-delegation Dr. Michael Hirshfield had this to say as the meeting commenced:
“We can not continue to let the demand for sharks and bluefin tuna drive these populations toward extinction. Immediate and proper international management is needed now or we will empty the oceans of these top predators and vastly change the oceans as we know them today… Oceana hopes the next ten days are not wasted playing ‘politics.’ The science is clear and it is time to get to work.”
And you can help us put the pressure on -- tell the US and EU delegates at ICCAT to increase protections for sharks and bluefin tuna!
Starting next week, the 17th Special Meeting of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) will meet in Paris, France. It’s another year, and another chance for the international body to take greater action to prevent the extinction of bluefin tuna, and to better protect sharks, swordfish and sea turtles.
We will have a team of scientists in Paris, and they will be calling on ICCAT to do the following:
* Suspend the bluefin tuna fishery until a system is implemented that follows the scientific advice on catch levels, stops illegal fishing and protects bluefin tuna spawning areas in the Gulf of Mexico and Mediterranean.
If you thought bluefin tuna were just another faceless fish, you thought wrong. Not only are they some of the fastest and most impressive predators in the ocean, they are also in serious trouble from overfishing.
In a few weeks, the world will have a chance to change bluefin’s fate, and we are asking you all to spread the word – by putting your face on this threatened fish. How, you ask? Well, our colleagues in Europe just launched a website, www.stoptunablues.org, where you can do just that.
From November 17-27th, the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) will meet in Paris. ICCAT is an international body responsible for the conservation and management of bluefin, and Oceana will be in Paris to pressure the Commission to do more to protect bluefin.
Bluefin may not be as cuddly as panda bears, but you are – so help us save bluefin by offering your (incredibly attractive) likeness to the cause, and then spread the word on Facebook, Twitter, e-mail, and any other way you want!
Today marks the six month anniversary of the start of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
Around 200 million gallons of oil spilled into the Gulf of Mexico. More than 6,000 birds, more than 600 sea turtles, and almost 100 marine mammals have died, and news surfaced this week that the spill likely killed 20 percent of juvenile Atlantic bluefin tuna in the vicinity of the spill. And the long-term effects remain to be seen.
It was the nation’s largest environmental disaster in history, and yet, there’s a pervading sense that the disaster is behind us, that the majority of the country has taken a deep breath and moved on. Congress hasn’t passed climate legislation, and the Obama administration lifted the moratorium on deepwater oil drilling several weeks earlier than planned.
What’s wrong with this picture?
We’re frustrated. If you are too, here are some ways to channel that frustration into action:
1. Tell your Senators to support the development of offshore wind power. We have a new report out that shows how offshore wind would be cost-effective, more beneficial to job creation, and better for the environment and ocean in a variety of ways than offshore drilling.
*An interview with Oceana’s Pacific Science Director and oil pollution expert, Jeff Short
*Do you know where your seafood comes from? Digging into the confusing (and sometimes sickening) question of seafood traceability in the U.S.
*A photo essay capturing the Gulf of Mexico oil spill
Read all of these and more in the full issue.