In November, the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) took the first steps toward establishing international management of open-ocean and highly migratory sharks and rays. The commission adopted amendments to its 50-year-old agreement that clarifies its authority to manage these species. The decision, endorsed by 53 countries, concludes a 10-year negotiation led by the United States.
The amendments establish a strong foundation for precautionary and ecosystem-based approaches to fisheries management. Once implemented, they are expected to ensure that all countries with shark fisheries will be required to meet ICCAT conservation measures—just as countries have to do with other ICCAT-managed fisheries like Atlantic bluefin tuna and white marlin.
ICCAT also adopted new limits on the number of North Atlantic blue sharks that major fishing nations can catch each year. The decision won’t affect American fishermen since the United States has already set similar limits. This new measure will help hold other ICCAT members accountable to agreed limits and support long-term sustainability.