Sciaena and 5 other NGO urged the EU to lead ICCAT into taking effective climate action

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In advance of the meeting of the Joint Expert Group on Climate Change, Sciaena and 5 other NGO wrote a letter to the European Union (EU) head of delegation to the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) calling for support and leadership in the adoption of a climate action plan in the context of the regional fisheries management organization responsible for the fisheries of tuna and tuna-like fishes in the Atlantic Ocean.

The letter was sent by 6 NGO observers to ICCAT – Deutsche Stiftung Meeresschutz, Oceana, Sciaena, The Ocean Foundation, The Pew Charitable Trusts and WWF – who regularly engage with the EU and mirrored similar outreach efforts towards other countries represented in ICCAT in the run-up to the meeting that will gather experts on Climate Change with the objective advancing the elaboration and discussion of the draft ICCAT Plan of Action on Climate Change for the organization, as agreed to by the contracting parties in the annual meeting of 2023.

In the letter, it is acknowledged that while fishing continues to be the primary driver of marine environment degradation, the accelerating effects of climate change, including ocean warming and acidification, are increasingly impacting marine species, ecosystems, and fisheries. Climate change is already influencing fisheries under the remit of the ICCAT convention. But on the other hand, the signatories to the letter also recognise that effective fisheries management that contributes to the resilience of these ecosystems is critical to mitigate the impacts of climate change.

Scientists have already shown that the Ecosystem Approach to Fisheries Management (EAFM) is essential to mitigate the combined impacts of fisheries and climate change on wild fish populations. Thus, the organisations signing the letter urge the EU to support the adoption of EAFM and Management Strategy Evaluations (MSEs) that include climate and ecological components as part of the climate action plan. This will enable ICCAT scientists to provide advice that accounts for more uncertainties, allowing ICCAT managers to adopt measures, including management procedures, that are likely to be more effective in a changing environment.

Thus, the letter calls for the adoption of a climate action plan at this week’s expert meeting, for endorsement at the 2024 ICCAT annual meeting, as an urgent step needed to ensure the future sustainability and predictability of fisheries targeting Atlantic migratory species. As in many other circumstances and international fora, the EU has the opportunity to continue to lead on climate action, by steering ICCAT towards an ecosystem approach to fisheries management. By doing so, the EU would reaffirm its commitment to healthy marine ecosystems and sustainable fisheries management.

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