IOTC urged to curtail yellowfin tuna overfishing at upcoming meeting

A fishing vessel unloading a net full of tuna
Multiple groups are urging the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission to tackle overfishing of yellowfin tuna at its annual meeting | Photo courtesy of Daniel Suddaby/Global Tuna Alliance
4 Min

As the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) meets in Bangkok, Thailand, for its 28th session taking place 13 to 18 May, multiple industry groups and NGOs are urging the commission to tackle overfishing of yellowfin tuna.

The IOTC has been pressured to reduce the total allowable catch for yellowfin tuna for years, and at its 2023 meeting, the committee again failed to reach an agreement on skipjack or yellowfin tuna quotas, or on drifting fish aggregate devices (dFADs). The failure brought heavy criticism from multiple groups, and was in spite of a resolution in June 2021 to rebuild the yellowfin tuna stock.

Now, groups like the Global Tuna Alliance and the Pew Charitable Trusts are calling for the regional fishery management organization (RFMO) to finally make a plan to rebuild the stock. Yellowfin tuna was first declared overfished in 2015, and since that time, the stock has continued to be overfished, the Global Tuna Alliance said.

GTA was formed in 2019, and was created to push for fishing reforms for tuna stocks managed by RFMOs. The pre-competitive association is comprised of 52 different partners including retailers and seafood supply chain companies involved with the global tuna industry. 

“These IOTC meetings are where the future of tuna in the Indian Ocean is decided,” GTA Executive Director Daniel Suddaby said in a release. “So it is essential that the voice of our partners, representing a huge swath of the tuna supply chain, are heard and acted upon.”  

The GTA said its position on yellowfin tuna, and tuna in general, is that sustainable fishing is a necessity for the market in 2024.

“The Global Tuna Alliance wants to see the Indian Ocean’s yellowfin population rebuilt within two generations (approximately 10 years),” it said. 

To do that, the GTA is calling on the IOTC to reduce catch levels of yellowfin tuna in the Indian Ocean by 30 percent relative to the 2020 catch – a metric which would result in a 67 percent chance of rebuilding the stock by 2030.

The group acknowledged individual IOTC member nations have reduced their catches, but said the voluntary cuts aren’t enough to meet the advice of the IOTs scientific committee. 

“The IOTC members simply cannot continue to play games with the future of yellowfin,” GTA Advocacy Lead Kerrie Robertson said. “The longer this takes, the worse the cuts will be for everyone, which is particularly detrimental for the countries that depend heavily on this amazing resource.”

The Pew Charitable Trusts is also continuing its calls for the IOTC to tackle yellowfin overfishing.

“Yellowfin management has been failing for years, which is worrying because scientists have classified that population as overfished since 2015,” Pew said in a press release. "Managers should end yearly negotiations of yellowfin catch limits, immediately reduce those limits to end overfishing, and fast-track the development and adoption of a management procedure.”

In 2022, the IOTC Scientific Committee published a report showing the stock remained overfished and that the TAC needed to be reduced.  

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