Global Tuna Alliance calls for 25 percent reduction in Indian Ocean yellowfin tuna catch

The Global Tuna Alliance (GTA) is looking to rebuild the Indian Ocean yellowfin tuna stock in two generations by calling for a 25 percent reduction in catch.

The stock has been overfished since 2016, with indications pointing to a potential total collapse as early as 2024, the alliance said in a 3 August press release. Despite the troubling forecast, management measures implemented by the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) have not proven effective in rebuilding the stock, GTA said.

“Many fleets are not subject to catch reductions and have actually increased their catches; the total catches of yellowfin in 2018 increased by around 9 percent from 2014-2015 levels despite the management measures calling for an overall reduction calculated to be around 7 percent,” GTA noted.

Most major supermarkets affiliated with GTA sell yellowfin tuna from the Indian Ocean. Retailers and suppliers have “made firm commitments to source responsible seafood from well-managed fisheries,” however, GTA said the yellowfin stock does not meet such requirements and the collective has “little confidence" the resolution will help.

“Prudent decision-making by IOTC delegates at the 2020 meeting – virtually rescheduled for 2 to 6 November due to the pandemic – can rectify this situation,” but time is running out, it said.

The alliance retained consultants to review IOTC data on the Indian Ocean yellowfin tuna stock and recommend the level of catch reduction necessary to rebuild it in two generations. The resulting report concludes that a 25 percent catch reduction – in reference to the 2017 catch levels – will be necessary, and features the following three specific proposals:

  • The first proposal recommends a 25 percent catch cut to all the fisheries which surpassed a set threshold in 2017 or 2018;
  • The second proposal keeps the current balance of Resolution 16/01 and its amendments (higher reductions for purse seines, medium reductions for gillnets and longlines and smaller reductions for other gears) but it increases the level of these reductions and decreases the catch thresholds, for which the catch cuts apply, to include more fisheries;
  • In the third proposal, a number of catch cuts are recommended for the different fleets taking into account the contribution by each fleet (by weight) to the total catch and the percentage of reduction or increase in their catches achieved in 2017 and 2018 regarding the baseline year 2014.

“These reductions in fishing mortality could be reached either reducing the fishing effort by fleet or implementing a cap in the number of vessels for the large fleets,” GTA said.

If an agreement in line with the scientific committee cannot be reached in 2020, GTA said that “individual supply chain members will be forced to re-evaluate their purchasing decisions.”

“The recovery of the Indian Ocean stock of yellowfin tuna can only be achieved through the joint effort of all the fleets and countries involved,” GTA Executive Director Tom Pickerell. “Not much time is left for Indian Ocean yellowfin tuna, and if no effective measures are implemented in the next couple of years, the stock could crash in less than one generation time, which would be catastrophic for the livelihoods of many fishers and coastal communities in the Indian Ocean.”

Photo courtesy of the Global Tuna Alliance


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