Indian Ocean Tuna Commission scales back use of FADs, reduces size of nets

Published on
May 31, 2017

At its most recent meeting in Indonesia last week, the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission decided to reduce the number of fish-aggregating devices and shrink the size of driftnets allowed in its fishery, pleasing sustainability advocates.

The 21st Annual Session of the IOTC took place last week in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, and ended Friday, 26 May. The commission, an intergovernmental organization composed of 31 members, including Indian Ocean coastal countries and countries fishing for tuna in the Indian Ocean, considered proposals aimed at enhancing the management of the tuna fisheries in the Indian Ocean. Topics discussed at the meeting included allocation of fishing opportunities; illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing; bycatch; supply vessels; and drifting fish aggregating devices (FADs).

According to the Seychelles News Agency, Sixteen motions were presented and eight were approved, including a proposal by the Seychelles to use 2015 instead of 2014 as the baseline year to reduce yellowfin tuna catch by 15 percent, which had been agreed to at the previous meeting of the commission. The motion passed despite opposition from Japan, South Korea, and the European Union, the news agency said.

According to the Times of Oman, the commission also decided to limit trawl nets to no more than 2.5 kilometers in length – a decrease in size from nets currently being used in the Indian Ocean, which can be up to seven kilometers in length. 

“This new IOTC measure now extends the phasing out of this type of fishing gear to the waters of member states. It is laudable in the effort to improve the management of Indian Ocean tuna resources, but it will still need to be supported through stringent controls and concerted efforts by all members involved in these fisheries,” the IPNLF said in a press release.

According to the IPNLF, at the meeting, the IOTC agreed by consensus to freeze the number of supply vessels, which are used by tuna purse-seiners to deploy drifting FADs and located schools of tuna, at their current levels. It also agreed to reduce the number of drifting FADs allowed per vessel from 425 to 350. 

“In response to growing concerns from coastal states and many NGOs regarding their harmful impact on ecosystems and tuna stocks, the IOTC agreed by consensus to freeze the current number of supply vessels, and to severely cut their numbers in the next coming years,” the IPNLF said.  “Fewer supply vessels and fewer FADs should also help when it comes to the issue of rebuilding yellowfin stocks, but it will be difficult to calculate their exact contribution. IPNLF is hopeful that more information regarding the activities of supply vessels and their contribution to the overall fishing effort will feed into the IOTC in the future.”

IPNLF Director of Policy & Outreach Adam Baske lauded the IOTC for its decisions.

“Their growing awareness of the threats facing Indian Ocean tuna fisheries and their willingness to work together to safeguard the resources is a very positive sign for the fisheries as well as for the highly vulnerable coastal communities,” says Adam Baske, IPNLF’s Director of Policy & Outreach.   “All of these improvements will strengthen the overall management framework of the Indian Ocean tuna fishery, and give us further hope that the resources, and communities that depend on them, will thrive into the future.”

The next meeting of the IOTC will take place in South Africa in October 2017, according to the Times of Oman.

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