PEI

Fisheries and Oceans Canada worries tuna quota set too high

ICCAT, the international body that governs tuna fishing, has set the quota for the bluefin tuna catch in the western Atlantic too high, says Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

‘We would have a 94 per cent chance of overfishing’

The quota for tuna in the western Atlantic is unchanged for 2021. (Emilio Morenatti/The Associated Press)

ICCAT, the international body that governs tuna fishing, has set the quota for the bluefin tuna catch in the western Atlantic too high, says Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

ICCAT has decided to set the 2021 quota at 2,350 metric tonnes, the same as it was in 2020.

"The science advice this year was pretty clear, that if we were to simply roll over the existing total allowable catch, which is 2,350 metric tonnes in 2021, we would have a 94 per cent chance of overfishing next year," Sylvie Lapointe, assistant deputy minister of fisheries and harbour management told Island Morning host Laura Chapin.

"That was not something that we could support."

The scientific report Lapointe references showed a 12 per cent decline in the stock since 2017.

The international negotiations over the tuna quota were complicated by the pandemic this year, Lapointe said. Instead of an in-person meeting, they were conducted largely by correspondence over a period of nine weeks. Some parties to the negotiations felt it was simply easier to roll over last year's quota.

In the end, Canada participated in a consensus on the quota to avoid there being no decision at all, which would have left the fishery unregulated.

Canada would have preferred a quota of 1,785 tonnes, which would have a less than 50 per cent chance of overfishing, said LaPointe.

More young tuna spotted

Some parties in the negotiations questioned this scientific advice, including the P.E.I. Fishermen's Association.

In a statement to CBC News, PEIFA questioned the results of the 2020 study, which updated the last full stock assessment in 2017 but with limited data. Fishermen

Fishermen say the results don't match with what they and others are seeing.

"Reports of increased abundance of young tuna have been seen throughout the entire western Atlantic by both the fishing and science community," the statement said.

Both Fisheries and Oceans Canada and PEIFA say they welcome a decision for a full stock assessment in 2021.

ICCATT did not respond to a request from CBC News to respond to the Canadian government's concerns.

More from CBC P.E.I.

With files from Laura Chapin

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