ICCAT Enacts New Rules To Protect Silky Sharks, Bluefin Tuna
November 21, 2011

ICCAT Enacts New Rules To Protect Silky Sharks, Bluefin Tuna

The global body that oversees tuna conservation efforts has decided to implement an electronic system to record worldwide bluefin catches, while also enacting new rules to help protect silky sharks, various media outlets reported on Saturday.

The new regulations were made official during a weeklong meeting in Istanbul of the 48-member International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT).

According to BBC News Environment Correspondent Richard Black, ICCAT opted to begin using the electronic monitoring system in order to help prevent illegal fishing of the Mediterranean bluefin tuna. Black reports that research has shown that the number of catches "have been far higher" than the numbers that have been reported.

Furthermore, as Suzan Fraser of the Associated Press (AP) reports, ICCAT has agreed on a measure that requires that all silky sharks accidentally caught in fishing gear to be freed and released.

However, Fraser adds, the commission "failed to reach consensus on other threatened shark species" and earned criticism from conservation groups asserting that the organization "could have been done to save swordfish from decline in the Mediterranean."

Likewise, she reports that the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) claimed that more could have been done to help preserve the bluefin population.

Black added that while the delegates "voted through a minimum legal size for swordfish, and will draw up a comprehensive recovery plan in 2013," that they "rebuffed" proposals meant to help protect the porbeagle shark, which has been "classified as vulnerable to extinction" on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

"ICCAT's new bluefin tuna electronic catch documentation scheme is an important and positive leap forwards in the monitoring of the fishery and protection of the species," Sergi Tudela, head of fisheries for WWF in the Mediterranean region, told the BBC.

Likewise, Susan Lieberman, director of international Policy at the Pew Environment Group, told the AP that ruling that silky sharks must be cut free from nets when caught was "an important step" that would "give a large number of them a real chance to survive."

Lieberman's group told Fraser that an estimated 1.5 million silky sharks are traded annually for their fins, and that these new regulations could save up to 40% of them.


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