India lodges protest against interim scheme to rebuild Indian Ocean yellowfin tuna stock

India has objected to a temporary plan for rebuilding yellowfin tuna stock in the Indian Ocean, disappointing environmental groups who argue the stock is overfished.

An official from Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) confirmed India’s decision on Friday, 25 October.

“At this stage, India has not withdrawn its objection,” IOTC Executive Secretary Christopher O'Brien told SeafoodSource.

India’s Department of Fisheries on 30 August sent an objection to the IOTC’s interim plan for rebuilding the yellowfin tuna stock in the Indian Ocean. The scheme had been adopted at the 23rd session of the IOTC held at Hyderabad, India, in June.

The IOTC has not been in touch with Indian representatives since it received the country’s decision, according to O’Brien.

Resolution 19/01 was to become effective on 29 October. However, it will be extended to 28 December unless more than one-third of IOTC members also object, the commission said in a 5 September statement.

In June, India asked the IOTC to ensure equity and democratic processes, and let “the voices of the smaller countries be heard,” the Hindu Business Line reported.

Despite a huge coastline and exclusive economic zone, the country, India is a small player in the global tuna trade. India asked the management body to facilitate the creation of a level playing field in yellowfin tuna fishing.

At the session in Hyderabad, India Fisheries Secretary Rajni Sekhri Sibal said India found it hard to compete with big players, whose vessels "are almost like floating factories.”

Charles Clover, executive director of the Blue Marine Foundation, said the organization expresses considerable sympathy for India and other coastal states that have had to watch heavily subsidized European fleets overfish the Indian Ocean for years, often unlawfully.

“However, this stock rebuilding plan for yellowfin tuna comes at a time of full-scale crisis for the management of Indian Ocean tuna stocks and it is therefore highly disappointing that India, after hosting the IOTC meeting in Hyderabad earlier this year, has chosen to object to it,” he said.

The India’s move is likely to help push the yellowfin stock closer to collapse and puts India in danger of contravening the Law of the Sea, which says that no nation is entitled to fish a common resource unsustainably, Clover said.

“Two wrongs do not make a right," Clover added.

Charlie Patterson, a representative from the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation, said all IOTC parties must cooperate toward solutions aimed at a robust rebuilding strategy that will achieve the long-term sustainability of the yellowfin stock. 

“Despite the negative outcomes of the most recent meeting, the commission did consider a working draft of a yellowfin tuna management procedure and has made a commitment to fund a management strategy evaluation, which we strongly support and believe will help move IOTC towards proper management of yellowfin in 2020," Patterson said.

Photo courtesy of Al McGlashan/Shutterstock


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