The U.S. law implementing the convention is the Atlantic Tunas Convention Act of 1975 (ATCA). ATCA stipulates that the United States shall be represented in ICCAT by not more than three commissioners who are appointed by the President and who can serve no more than two three-year terms. One of the three U.S. commissioners can be a salaried government employee. To date, an official from the U.S. Department of Commerce's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) always has served as one of the U.S. commissioners. Of the other two, who are not employed by the government, one must be knowledgeable and experienced with regard to commercial fishing in the Atlantic Ocean, Gulf of Mexico, or Caribbean Sea, whereas the other is required to be knowledgeable and experienced with regard to recreational fishing in one of these regions.
The U.S. commissioners are assisted by an advisory committee consisting of between five and 20 individuals who are selected from the various groups concerned with fisheries that are governed by the convention. The advisory committee has the opportunity to offer comments on all proposed programs of investigation, reports, recommendations, and regulations of the commission.
ICCAT has four components: (1) the commission (composed of not more than three delegates from any member nation); (2) the council (an elected body with a chairman, vice-chairman, and representatives from four to eight member nations that performs functions assigned to it by the convention or commission); (3) the executive secretary (responsible for commission finances, coordinating ICCAT programs, preparing the collection and analysis of data to accomplish the purposes of the convention, and preparing reports for approval by the commission); and (4) subject area panels (established by the commission and responsible for reviewing the species under their purview, collecting scientific and other information, proposing recommendations for joint actions, and recommending studies by member nations). Standing Committees on Research and Statistics (SCRS) have been established by the commission.
The commission is responsible for formulating regulatory proposals, which are approved by ICCAT and submitted to member governments for approval. If there are no objections from any concerned contracting government within approximately six months, each party to the convention is then responsible for implementing and enforcing the regulations recommended by ICCAT.
In 1974, ICCAT recommended the first regulatory measures for Atlantic bluefin tuna. These measures included a minimum size limit of 6.4 kg and a limit on fishing mortality to the levels of 1974. In 1981, ICCAT adopted the premise of a two-stock structure for Atlantic bluefin tuna, one in the eastern and the other in the western Atlantic Ocean. Also in 1981 the capture of bluefin tuna in the western Atlantic Ocean was prohibited, except for a catch quota established