Marine & Environmental Sciences Faculty Proceedings, Presentations, Speeches, Lectures

International Management of Atlantic Istiophorid Billfishes: Progress and Challenges

Event Name/Location

68th Tuna Conference, Lake Arrowhead, California, May 15-18, 2017

Presentation Date


Document Type

Conference Proceeding






Members of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) are responsible for conducting research on, assessing the status of, and ensuring the conservation and the management of Atlantic tunas and tuna-like species, which include the istiophorid billfishes. The majority of fishing mortality for Atlantic billfishes results from bycatch on pelagic longline gear targeting tunas and swordfish, with lesser contributions from directed artisanal and recreational fisheries. By the early 1990s, several billfish stocks were already overfished with overfishing occurring. ICCAT has been slow, however, to adopt conservation and management measures for these species, and most remain overfished today. Here we review the fisheries, stock status, and management measures adopted by ICCAT for istiophorid billfishes, and consider those factors that have contributed to the failure of ICCAT to meet its management objectives for these species. We identify three major challenges that may be common to other management organizations: (1) the complexities of managing bycatch species; (2) the constraints imposed on assessment and management when there is poor compliance with data reporting; and (3) the difficulties of achieving consensus on conservation and management measures for resources that are valued very differently by ICCAT members and their respective fisheries.

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