For one thing, the European Union pressured by fishing nations like Spain and Italy has left open the possibility that it will push to increase quotas at the ICCAT meeting to 14,900 tons (13,500 metric tons) — something ICCAT scientist have said still would allow the continued recovery of bluefin.
"We welcome the unprecedented rational and cautious approach taken by EU Member States, but we cannot help but fear the consequences of proposing any increase in the bluefin quota," said Maria Jose Cornax, a fisheries campaign manager for the environmental group Oceana Europe. "To do so means opening a Pandora's box, because it not only could fuel third countries' calls for unsustainable quota increases, but it could also jeopardize EU proposals for shark conservation, which are often affected by bluefin political discussions."
There is also the impact of the Arab Spring, with Libya is demanding that its quota of 995 tons (903 metric tons) be increased since the civil war disrupted fishing last year. Algeria is also wants to increase its quota compensate for an ICCAT decision that shifted some of its quota to Libya several years ago.
Even if the current quota be endorsed at the ICCAT meeting, environmentalist and ICCAT's scientist acknowledge more has to be done to ensure the survival of Bluefin. They are calling for increased efforts combating illegal fishing with greater enforcement, reducing the numbers of boats allowed to fish and improving the data collected especially from fish farms to ensure the science is stronger when the next assessment is done in 2015.
"None of these measures really add up unless they are complied with and unless there is enforcement," said Susan Lieberman, deputy director of international policy for Pew. "There is significant illegal fishing and overfishing above the quotas in the Atlantic Ocean in ICCAT. It is extremely important for the future of those fisheries, for the future of fishing communities and for those governments and fishing industries that illegal fishing be stopped and that there be efforts ensured that rules and regulations of ICCAT are good, but not only good, but complied with."
Associated Press writer Eric Talmadge in Tokyo contributed to this report.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.