Pretoria — The International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas conducts excellent research, is a good example of international collaboration and has taken the lead in protecting ecologically important species, says Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Tina Joemat-Pettersson.
"Over the years, ICCAT has grown and matured as an international organisation that conducts excellent scientific research. It anchors its management on a transparent process of integrating scientific, social, economic and political considerations in a balanced way and upholds the ecosystem approach to fisheries in all its dimensions (ecological, human and governance)," said the minister.
Speaking at the meeting of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas in Cape Town on Monday, she said ICCAT had shown that declining fish stocks can be rebuilt, such as the recent evidence-based success story on the rebuilding of the North Atlantic swordfish stock.
"ICCAT has also adopted stringent conservation and management measures to rebuild the iconic North Atlantic Bluefin stocks, which is once again a testimony to the level of responsibility and maturity displayed by member parties of this organisation.
"ICCAT has taken the lead in the protection of ecologically important and threatened shark species and the protection of seabirds with effective mitigation measures.
To this end we have strengthened the conservation of seabirds in South Africa with a National Plan of Action that dates to as far back as 2008. This plan includes measures that are currently being adopted by this commission."
Joemat-Pettersson said ICCAT had further shown a determination to combat illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing by implementing effective measures such as catch document schemes for Bluefin; blacklisting vessels engaged in IUU fishing; minimum standards for inspection in port and an at sea trans-shipment programme.
However, she urged that ICCAT address how coastal states, especially those in Africa which have been disadvantaged through their colonial legacy, can gain equitable access and the full economic benefits and capacity that they are entitled to.
She said through a rights allocation process that places these fishers at the forefront, South Africa is now, in 2013, attempting to right some of the wrongs of the past.
"We would like to see that international commissions such as ICCAT also take such issues into account when country quotas are being allocated. As such, large and rich fishing nations have ensured that they receive the lion's share of quotas and sharing arrangements and there should be more equity in future."
Joemat-Pettersson said that the body should also further strengthen its monitoring, control and surveillance efforts to combat IUU fishing by implementing the Electronic Bluefin Catch Document and to continue the work to develop Unique Vessel Identifiers for all authorized vessels.