The 2009 ICCAT annual meeting produced some unusual results. The European members have historically resisted the scientific advice to reduce the catch. Then they have overfished the inflated quotas. Due to intense international pressure, and some think the threat of a listing of Atlantic bluefin by the CITES, this year ICCAT members agreed to a greatly reduced Eastern quota of 13,500 tons in 2010, which was the recommendation of the Commission's scientific committee. They also agreed to establish new management measures at the 2010 meeting that include a 60 percent chance of rebuilding the stock to maximum sustainable yield by 2023, as recommended by the scientific committee. They are planning to establish close to real-time monitoring of landings to make sure quotas are not exceeded. They instituted a comprehensive documentation system to track the movement of bluefin product into the marketplace and will require 100 percent observer coverage for the purse seine fishery. All of these measures are very big steps in the right direction for managing the Eastern stock. Will they actually be adhered to, and more importanly, will they be enough? Only time will tell.
Many think that the threat of a CITES Appendix I listing, which essentially would impact international trade in Atlantic bluefin, is the reason that these changes in management have been made for the Eastern stock. What then happens if the listing actually is put in place? As is the case with many international treaties, the CITES has some loopholes, and there is concern that these may be used to get around the intent of the listing. Any member nation can officially object to the listing of a species and, through that objection, continue to trade in that species. History tells us that Japan has objected seven times to marine species listing. They will likely object again, as they are the single largest market for this fish. It is highly likely that those nations that comply with the allocated quotas, such as the United States, will not object and therefore will be restricted. If the demand is filled by objecting parties, and it likely will be, how will those catches be monitored and controlled?