ICCAT Atlantic wide research programme for Bluefin Tuna (GBYP)
The Atlantic-wide research programme for bluefin tuna was officially adopted by SCRS and the ICCAT Commission in 2008, after a long process. In 2003, as an input of the Working Group established by Rec. 02-11, SCRS presented the Commission with a research plan to improve knowledge on bluefin tuna, with a special focus on mixing between the two stocks (ICCAT, 2004, Col. Vol. Sci. Pap.ICCAT, 56(3): 987-1003). The various research elements included in this first proposal are still pertinent today, even if some other activities have been included in the following years. During the Marrakech Commission meeting (2008), the SCRS chair met with all the scientists present at the meeting and a detailed proposal was forwarded to the Commission.
The proposal was adopted by the Commission in plenary (ICCAT Report 2008-2009 (I), 1: 40) and resulted in a first official document, Res.08-06, which covered only the 2004 SCRS proposal but under a broader title. At the same time, the Commission approved the STACFAD Report (ICCAT Report 2008-2009 (I), 1: 42), which included the agreement to endorse the Atlantic-wide research programme (ICCAT Report 2008-2009, (I), 1, Appendix 10 to Annex 9: 284-287), establishing three priorities in 2009 (Coordinator, data mining and Aerial surveys), other action to be further discussed by SCRS in 2009 and the provision for the programme to be adjusted in the following years taking into account the evolution of its implementation and research needs. The total budget of the programme was estimated at about 19 million Euros in 6 years. The same document reports the engagement of the European Community and some other Contracting Parties to contribute to this programme in 2009 and in the following years.
The SCRS, in 2009, reviewed the updated research proposal submitted by SCRS chair, as it was discussed and presented to the Commission at its meeting in 2008 (ICCAT Report 2008-2009 (II), 1: 224 and ICCAT Report 2008-2009 (II), 2: 223-224). The SCRS indicated the priorities identified in the 2008 document, as follows:
- Improve basic data collection through mining (including information from traps, observers, and VMS), developing methods to estimate sizes of fish caged, elaborating accurate CPUE indices for Mediterranean purse seine fleets, development of fisheries-independent information surveys and implementing a large scale well planned conventional and genetic tagging experiment;
- Improve understanding of key biological and ecological processes through electronic tagging experiments to determine habitat and migration routes, broad scale biological sampling of live fish to be tagged and dead fish landed (e.g. gonads, liver, otoliths, spines, etc.), histological analyses to determine bluefin tuna reproductive state and potential, and biological and genetics analyses to investigate mixing and population structure; ecological processes, including predator-prey relationships;
- Improve assessment models and provision of scientific advice on stock status trough improved modelling of key biological processes (including growth and stock-recruitment), further developing stock assessment models including mixibng between various areas, and developing and use of biologically realistic operating models for more rigorous management option testing.
A number of Contracting Parties expressed a willingness to make extra-budgetary contributions to such a programme with a view towards initiation of activities in 2009 related to programme coordination, data mining, aerial surveys, and tagging design studies, with additional research activities to be undertaken in the following years.
The first year costs were set at 750,000 Euro and voluntary contributions sufficient to initiate the year 1 activities were jointly committed by the European Community, United States, Japan, Canada, Norway, Croatia, Turkey and Chinese Taipei, while Morocco indicated its interest in future contributions. The provision to accept additional contributions from various entities and private institutions or companies was also agreed. In the same document, it was recommended to form a Steering Committee comprised by the SCRS Chair, the ICCAT Executive Secretary or his/her Assistant, bluefin tuna rapporteurs, and an outside expert with substantial experience in similar research undertakings for other tuna RFMOs, to guide and refine the Programme as necessary.