IOTC sounds alarm as COVID-19 hinders members’ ability to pay

The Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) is sounding the alarm on an impending stalling of its operations due to a lack of funding, as some of the organization’s members are unable to pay up their 2020 annual contributions due to the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic.

IOTC Executive Secretary Christopher O’Brien has asked members with unpaid subscriptions to address the non-payment issue “with the utmost urgency to enable the on-going work of the commission.”

“IOTC therefore faces a risk of reduced operations due to the unpaid contributions,” he said.

The IOTC manages tuna and tuna-like stocks along the Indian Ocean coastal areas. The organization also participates in the gathering, analyzing, and dissemination of scientific information on catches and other tuna-related utilization data.

However, the Seychelles, whose purse-seine fleet catches of skipjack and yellowfin tuna was estimated at 123,310 MT in 2018, is calling for a waiver of up to 50 percent of its outstanding USD 251,567 (EUR 222,766) to enable the country work on how to recover and “remain active member in good standing.”

The Seychelles Foreign Affairs Department said the country’s tourism sector, which accounts for 24 percent of the island-nation’s economy, has collapsed under the impact of COVID-19, leading to “depletion of national financial reserves.”

The Seychellois government has warned the country faces “a macroeconomic crisis of epic proportions” as the collapsed tourism industry leads to rising unemployment, putting unprecedented strain on the country’s social services. It said it has an “urgent need for foreign exchange” to purchase vital commodities and medical and educational supplies. Seychelles imports 90 percent of all its consumption needs.

“The government of Seychelles is requesting for a 50 percent waiver of its annual contributions payment for three years (2020, 2021, 2022) to allow the country use the scant foreign currency resources that it has to readjust the economy in order to avoid a macroeconomic collapse and humanitarian disaster,” the Foreign Ministry statement said.

Only 15 IOTC members have paid up their 2020 contributions totaling USD 2,756,487 (EUR 2,440,900) against the organization’s budget of USD 4,367,286 (EUR 3,867,290).

Several other African IOTC members such as Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa, Sudan, Mozambique, Somalia, Madagascar, and Sierra Leone have yet to clear their arrears and but have not made any special requests for a waiver.

IOTC, which is chaired by Susan Imende, requires support from its members for effective coordination of fisheries research and development and also the implementation of conservation and management measures based on emerging scientific evidence.


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