Billfish Recommendations for ICCAT 2012

IGFA President Rob Kramer and Conservation Director Jason Schratwieser are currently attending the 18th Special Meeting of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) in Agadir, Morocco.  Billfish conservation measures are a hot topic this year, as the most recent stock assessments for blue and white marlin from the ICCAT Standing Committee on Research and Statistics (SCRS) found that blue and white marlin are still in an overfished condition with blue marlin still experiencing overfishing.   Similarly, SCRS reports also found that both the eastern and western Atlantic stocks of sailfish are most likely overfished with overfishing occurring. 

In an effort to help rebuild these important recreational species, the U.S. delegation has put forth a recommendation to establish an annual Total Allowable Catch (TAC) of 2,000 tons for blue marlin and 400 tons for white marlin/spearfish by implementing the following measures:

  • ICCAT Contracting Party Country (CPCs) commercial fishing vessels must release all marlin and spearfish whether dead or alive and also prohibit the retention, transshipment, or sale of any part or whole carcass of marlin or spearfish

This very significant recommendation was strongly recommended by IGFA and was also included in IGFA’s position statement to ICCAT and is an attempt to directly leverage IGFA’s efforts of successfully passing the Billfish Conservation Act of 2012 in the United States.  Additional measures in the recommendations include:

  • CPC commercial fishing vessels must release any live sailfish that are caught
  • CPCs with recreational fisheries shall adopt domestic regulations that establish minimum sizes of 251 cm lower jaw fork length (LJFL) for blue marlin and 168 cm LJFL for white marlin/spearfish.

  • CPCs will prohibit the sale of marlin, sailfish and spearfish caught in recreational fisheries.

  • All CPCs shall report to the SCRS by July 31, 2013 on their methods for estimating dead discards of marlin, sailfish and spearfish, as these estimates are critical to for accurate stock assessments

  • CPC’s shall notify the SCRS by July 31, 2013 of the means they use to estimate artisanal catches of sailfish to ensure that total landings reported in 2015 are inclusive of those from artisanal fisheries.

The chairman of the ICCAT panel charged with working on billfish has put forward a similar recommendation for billfish that also establish TACs of 2,000 and 400 tons for blue marlin and white marlin/spearfish, respectively.  However this recommendation does not include measures to prohibit the retention, transshipment or sale of marlin and spearfish. 

The final outcome of these recommendations and others will be determined over the next days of the 18th Special meeting of the ICCAT.