Archived - Bluefin Tuna (Atlantic Canada)

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Bluefin tuna fished in Atlantic Canada are part of the western Atlantic stock. Because of their highly migratory nature, bluefin are managed under the jurisdiction of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT).

Dates of season (subject to change)

The bluefin tuna commercial fishing season runs from January 1 through December 31 each year in Atlantic Canada but, the directed fishery for the individual fleets open on various dates as chosen by the fleet. Traditionally the fishery begins with the migration of bluefin into Canadian waters in early July and usually continues until late October. The majority of landings occur between late July and late September.

Total Allowable Catches and Sharing Arrangements (if applicable)

The Canadian allocation of bluefin tuna is set by ICCAT. The Commission allocates tunas in the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea, including the Western Atlantic bluefin stock which is shared by Canada, the United States, Japan, Bermuda, St. Pierre and Miquelon and Mexico. The Total Allowable Catch for the western bluefin tuna stock was set at 2,100t for 2007 and 2008, down from 2,700t. The quota that Canada received from ICCAT was proportionately reduced from 620t in 2006 to 546t for 2007 and 2008. The 546t quota is made up of an allocation of 496t from ICCAT plus a 50t transfer of quota from the United States to Canada in both 2007 and 2008.

The overall Canadian quota for 2008 is 627t which includes the 2008 Canadian quota of 546t plus 81t of unharvested Canadian quota from 2007. The 2008 Canadian quota is split between; inshore fleets directing for tuna with total allocations of approximately 550t (includes 59t of uncaught quota from 2007), an offshore licence holder which receives 23t (20t annual allocation plus 3t uncaught from 2007), and a bycatch quota of 53t for the pelagic longline (PLL) fleet that has directed fisheries for swordfish and/or other tuna species. The PLL bycatch allocation includes 19t of unused bycatch quota from 2007 (15t from the central north Atlantic and 4t of western bluefin). There is also a 2 tonne allocation established for scientific tagging as recommended by industry representatives.

2008 Inshore Fleet Shares and Quotas of Bluefin Tuna
Fleet Inshore fleet % 2008 Allocation 2008 Quota*
Prince Edward Island 30.02% 147.97 150.22
Newfoundland and Labrador 12.84% 63.29 72.00
Gulf New Brunswick 7.81% 38.54 42.54
Quebec 5.09% 25.04 26.54
Gulf Nova Scotia 11.27% 55.55 53.64
Southwest Nova Scotia 21.70% 106.96 137.99
St. Margaret’s Bay 11.27% 55.55 66.63
Total 100.00% 492.89 549.57

* Quotas adjusted to reflect unharvested (or overharvest) by the various inshore fleets. Fleets that had quota remaining at the end of 2007 carried this amount over to 2008.

Management Measures

The Canadian bluefin fishery is tightly controlled through a number of conservation, enforcement and monitoring measures. Along with limited entry into the fishery; there are restrictions on the amount and type of gear used, minimum size restrictions, vessel replacement, management fishing areas, and licence transfer requirements. Fish harvesters are also required to complete fishing log books of all their activities.

At-sea observers are deployed on tuna boats, throughout the season, to collect biological data and monitor compliance with fishing regulations. Canada also uses a comprehensive enforcement protocol that involves a combination of the Dockside Monitoring Program and shore and sea-based patrols of Department of Fisheries and Oceans Fisheries Officers to ensure compliance with domestic regulations. Beginning in 2008, ICCAT has made it mandatory for a catch document to be completed for each bluefin tuna harvested. The catch document will track the movement of each individual tuna from the harvester to exporter to importer and on through until it is sold in the marketplace. Canada also uses a system of uniquely numbered tags that must be attached to all bluefin tuna landed in Canada and exported. These two measures combined allow each and every bluefin tuna caught to be tracked from the point where they are landed on the boat until it is sold for consumption.

Since 2004, the Atlantic bluefin tuna fishery has been managed using fleet quota shares to provide stability for inshore fleets and allow them to set their own harvesting plan to focus on value from the fishery. Beginning in 2007, the fleet shares that had been in place from 2004-2006 have been adjusted slightly to account for the high number of First Nations licence holders in the Gulf New Brunswick fleet whose catches had previously been risk managed and thus not counted against that fleet’s quota. There will be no further risk management of any FN licence holder catches. These shares introduced in 2007 are in place for a minimum of five years to further promote stability in this fishery.

Quota transfers between inshore bluefin tuna fleets, the pelagic longline fleet and the offshore tuna licence holder are permitted subject to DFO approval. In 2007, there were a total of 18 quota transfers between fleets. A fleet’s uncaught quota in 2007 was added to that fleet’s quota in 2008. One inshore fleet had a slight overrun of its 2007 fleet quota and this amount was taken off of the fleet’s 2008 quota. Any uncaught quota in 2008 will be added to the Canadian quota in 2009, with the exception of uncaught central north Atlantic quota which will remain with the PLL fleet.