A wide consortium of global tuna buyers, NGOs, and fishing industry associations have issued a call to regional fishery management organizations that they adopt more stringent rules on harvest strategies, fish-aggregating devices, bycatch limits, catch monitoring and control, and surveillance.
The letter, issued by a diverse, global group of 118 commercial and nonprofit organizations calling for “immediate action by tuna RFMOs to address critical tuna sustainability priorities.” The missive was sent to the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC), the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC), the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT), and the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC).
The initiative was organized by the NGO Tuna Forum, which seeks to bring together organizations that work comprehensively on tuna sustainability issues globally, with the goal of “elevating inter-NGO engagement and increasing market partner engagement where possible on issues and opportunities that fall within one or more of the following core focus areas: RFMO management & advocacy; market-based mechanisms for improving sustainability; and on-water research, activities, and improvements.”
The letter, dated 7 May, 2018, calls for accelerated action on the following global tuna fishery priorities:
- The development and implementation of comprehensive, precautionary harvest strategies
- Effective monitoring and management of fish aggregating devices (FADs)
- Strengthened monitoring, control and surveillance tools, including increased observer coverage in purse seine and longline fisheries, and of at-sea transshipment activity, through human observers and electronic monitoring
- Greater focus on the implementation of bycatch mitigation best practices broadly, with an emphasis on longline fisheries
“Tuna fisheries represent not only a high-value protein source but also an important economic driver for countries and communities around the globe. As a highly migratory, global species, the health of tuna stocks is of global concern – as witnessed by the breadth of signatories to this appeal,” the NGO Tuna Forum said in a press release. “The organizations believe these measures are needed to positively impact the long-term sustainability of tuna stocks and the overall health of the marine ecosystem.
Specific actions that IOTC, IATTC, ICCAT and WCPFC are being asked to address in 2018 include:
1. Develop and implement comprehensive, precautionary harvest strategies with specific timelines for all tuna stocks, including the adoption and implementation of target and limit reference points, harvest control rules, monitoring strategies, operational objectives, performance indicators, and management strategy evaluation;
2. Adopt a 100 percent observer coverage requirement for purse seine vessels where it is not already required, and require the use of the best-available observer safety equipment, communications and procedures;
3. Increase compliance with mandatory minimum five percent longline observer coverage rates by identifying and sanctioning non-compliance, and adopt and implement a 100 percent observer coverage requirement – human and/or electronic – within five years for longline fisheries;
4. Adopt and implement a 100 percent observer coverage requirement for at-sea transshipment activities, as well as other measures that ensure transshipment activity is transparent and well-managed, and that all required data is fully collected and sent to the appropriate bodies in a timely manner;
5. Develop and implement science-based recommendations for the effective management of FADs, and integrate FAD-based information into stock assessments to reduce uncertainties;
6. Adopt effective measures for the use of non-entangling FAD designs as a precautionary measure to minimize the entanglement of sharks and other non-target species, and support research on biodegradable materials and transition to their use to mitigate marine debris;
7. More effectively implement, and ensure compliance with, existing RFMO bycatch requirements and take additional mitigation action, such as improving monitoring at sea, collecting and sharing operational-level, species-specific data, and adopting stronger compliance measures, including consequences for non-compliance for all gear types.
“While the signatories recognize that RFMOs have made progress to-date on some these priorities, accelerated action is required on all fronts to ensure the long-term sustainability of tuna fisheries,” the NGO Tuna Forum said in its release.
The full letter and the list of signatories can be viewed at the NGO Tuna Forum website.
Photo courtesy of WWF