International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas


The International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas is the regional fisheries management organization responsible for the management of tuna, swordfish, and other large pelagic fish. This includes responsibility for allocating available quotas of these fish stocks among Commission members.

Convention Area

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International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas

The Commission encompasses all waters of the Atlantic Ocean and the adjacent seas, including the domestic waters (also known the exclusive economic zones) of all coastal states.

Annual Meeting

The Commission meets annually to present and review the work of the Commission's various committees and working groups and to determine management measures, including quota, for the various fish stocks it manages.

The 24th Regular Meeting of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) wrapped up November 17, 2015 in Malta. Canada participated alongside key partners from around the world.

At the meeting, Canada successfully advocated for the adoption of a management measure to support the rebuilding of porbeagle shark. Specifically, the measure caps catches at current levels and requires all live porbeagle bycatch to be released, to support the rebuilding of the porbeagle shark population.  Canada is committed to the conservation of shark species, and this new management measure is expected to expedite the rebuilding of this species throughout the Atlantic Ocean.

In terms of combatting illegal fishing, the Commission agreed to move forward in 2016 to electronically track the international trade of Atlantic bluefin tuna. Canada is fully supportive of the development of this system, which was several years in the making and represents a significant step forward to deter illegal fishing for this iconic species.

Canada was also pleased that the Commission continues to make progress in modernizing its approaches to fisheries management. Canadian proposals were adopted to provide the Commission with guidance on the implementation of a precautionary approach and an ecosystem-based approach to fisheries management.  In addition, the Commission adopted a process to develop Harvest Control Rules for ICCAT species.

Species Managed

The Commission covers about 30 species including tuna, swordfish, and other large pelagic species such as spearfish and mackerels. Pelagic species live near the surface or at medium depths, as opposed to near the sea floor.

Contracting Parties

The Commission includes members ranging from North, South and Central America to Europe and Africa, as well as distant-water fishing nations from Asia and the South Pacific. Canada has been a member since the organization was established in 1969. For a full list of contracting parties, visit the Commission's website.


The Commission has made significant progress to ensure the sustainability of the fish stocks it manages. This includes:

  • compiling relevant catch and scientific data with an advanced tagging system allowing data collection of tunas and tuna-like fish.
  • combatting the problem of illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing by:
    • leading other regional fisheries management organizations in using trade sanctions.
    • maintaining a list of vessels suspected of engaging in illegal, unreported and unregulated activities in the Convention Area.
    • improving compliance by some members and the capacity of some members to take responsibility for the actions of their fleets.
  • committing to on-going performance review of conservation and management efforts and implementing recommendations from this process.
  • strengthening conservation and management measures.
  • Undertaking increased scientific study to better understand tunas, swordfish and other large pelagic fish and their ecosystems to ensure sustainable and healthy fish stocks.

Canada's Leadership Role

As a founding member of the Commission, Canada plays a leadership role in the way highly migratory fish stocks are managed. Canada has held a number of key positions in the organization, including Chair of the Permanent Working Group and Chair of the Finance and Administration Committee.

 Some of Canada's important contributions include:

  • ensuring that management measures for species managed by the Commission are fully based on science, including the implementation of precautionary and ecosystem based approaches.
  • contributing to key science research activities to increase understanding about the bluefin tuna and other species managed by the Commission.
  • establishing capacity-building efforts to address the Commission's rapid growth, particularly with the addition of many developing countries as members.

Important Links