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International Commission for Conservation of Atlantic Tuna

Volume 485: debated on Wednesday 17 December 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what role the Government played during the recent meeting of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna; what representations he and his Departmental officials made; what assessment he has made of the outcome of the meeting; and if he will make a statement. (242998)

The UK attended the ICCAT meeting as part of the European Community delegation and also has a seat on behalf of overseas territories in the Atlantic ocean (Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Turks and Caicos and St. Helena).

Prior to the meeting, the UK (in both its capacity as a member of the EC delegation and on behalf of the overseas territories) held bilateral talks with USA, Canada and Chinese Taipei. UK overseas territories also had regular discussions with the EC during the course of the meeting.

Regular EC co-ordination meetings were held and the UK made various representations at these on a range of issues including improved compliance in the ICCAT fisheries, conservation of sharks and blue fin tuna.

I consider that the outcome of the meeting was positive but I would have preferred to have agreed more stringent measures on the conservation of sharks and a smaller TAC for blue fin tuna. I do not believe that it is acceptable to only have conservation measures relating to live sharks and consider that dead sharks should be discarded at sea rather than landed. The EC campaigned vigorously on this point but encountered too much opposition to agree a consensus. The EC intends to continue to push for a stronger conservation regime for sharks and will do so with the whole hearted support of the UK.

On blue fin tuna, it would have been desirable to secure a smaller TAC for this stock, but I am satisfied with the enhanced control measures agreed for this fishery and are confident that it can now be effectively managed.

There were detailed discussions on the report of the independent body that undertook a review into the functioning of ICCAT. A working group will now be set up to discuss this report with a view to implementing the recommendations and the UK will look to play a role in these discussions.