Conservationists, US industry and US Government
pushed hard to rebuild north Atlantic swordfish;
Thwarted by the European Union and Japan
Led by the United States, the international body responsible for
swordfish management yesterday took an important step to promote recovery
of north Atlantic swordfish by establishing the principle: swordfish
populations should be rebuilt within ten years with a greater than 50% chance
However, the specific measures adopted (a gradual quota reduction over
the next three years) will not necessarily assure recovery within ten
years. Initial quotas agreed to at the meeting are higher than those
recommended by fisheries scientists, and the lack of agreed-to catch
limits in later years makes recovery uncertain.
Conservationists, the U.S. government, and the U.S. fishing industry
pushed hard to reduce the quota to nearly 10,000 metric tons to ensure
recovery within 10 years, but were torpedoed by the European Union and
"The government listened to the Give Swordfish a Break campaign and other
conservation groups and stood firm in their commitment on a strong
unified US position," said Vikki Spruill, executive director of SeaWeb
and co-founder of the campaign.
"The bottom line: recovery within ten years remains a goal, not a
guarantee. The future of swordfish, and the commitment of ICCAT to
achieving full recovery in ten years will be determined by the quotas set
at the end of this three year period," said Lisa Speer of NRDC and a
co-founder of the Give Swordfish a Break Campaign.
"Counting the dead discarded swordfish against the allowable catch is a
major improvement in swordfish management. This will reduce the
mortality, helping to promote the recovery of swordfish," said Dr. Ellen
Pikitch of the Wildlife Conservation Society.
The strong action promoted by the US, Canada, and supported by Brazil,
Venezuela, South Africa, and the U.K. overseas territories advances
swordfish conservation. "The U.S. contingent pushed hard for stricter
measures to be adopted now, rather than take a wait and see approach.
Unfortunately, the European Union and Japan, powerful players in ICCAT,
did not have the same commitment to well-managed fisheries," said David
Wilmot, executive director, Living Oceans Program, National Audubon
Society. "U.S. conservation groups, as well as NGOs worldwide, must
remain vigilant to ensure that ICCAT follows through on its agreement in
Action now turns to the domestic front where the United States can take
action to protect baby swordfish within its own waters. A new draft rule
for protecting swordfish "nursery areas" in the Atlantic is expected to
be issued by the government within a few weeks.
"It is now crucial that the government propose strong measures to protect
juvenile swordfish in U.S. waters," said Sarah Chasis, senior attorney at
NRDC. "Strong protections for nursery areas will increase the likelihood
that swordfish will recover promptly.
The Give Swordfish a Break campaign commends the chefs who have worked
for two years to pressure the U.S. government to support an adequate
recovery plan. Unfortunately given that the plan adopted yesterday does
not guarantee swordfish recovery, and given that the U.S. has yet to
adopt measures to protect baby swordfish, the campaign cannot recommend
that consumers eat north Atlantic swordfish. "Clearly the chefs efforts
helped to convince our government to support stronger measures. Next
time, we hope more countries will stand with the U.S. In the meantime, we
thank the chefs, consumers and all the campaign supporters for their hard
work. It was a job well done," said Spruill.
Contact: Charles Longer, 202-822-5200