IOTC faces financial crunch as members delay payments
The Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) is facing a financial crunch due to members delaying their 2021 subscription dues and outstanding arrears.
IOTC Executive Secretary Christopher O’Brien said only one-third of the 30 regional fishery management organization (RFMO) members have paid their 2021 subscriptions, and with the majority having not paid, total arrears have increased to USD 6.2 million (EUR 5.2 million) as of 18 March.
He said with this year’s paid subscriptions representing only 42 percent of this year’s budget of USD 4.2 million (EUR 3.56 million), the IOTC “faces a risk of reduced operations.”
O’Brien urged non-compliant contracting parties to “address the matter with utmost urgency to enable the ongoing work of the commission.”
At least 13 African countries are among the annual subscription non-compliant members, with a combined outstanding arrears of USD 1.6 million (EUR 1.35 million).
Sudan owes the highest amount in arrears to the IOTC among African countries, with USD 360,528 (EUR 305,638) owed, and Eritrea and the Seychelles follow that with arrears of USD 292,917 (EUR 248,319) and USD 249,743 (EUR 211,718) respectively.
IOTC is still pursuing back payment from Guinea, which previously withdrew its membership, and Sierra Leone, which has promised to pay what it owes but is yet to honor the commitment. Sierra Leone and Guinea owe IOTC USD 66,097 (EUR 56,033) and USD 155,866 (EUR 132,135) respectively. The arrears for both countries are for five years running up to 2016.
For the case of Sierra Leone, IOTC had previously said the country is “not a coastal state situated in the IOTC area of competence, and it has not reported any fishing activity in the IOTC area of competence in recent years.”
The commission said FAO, which serves as a depository of the IOTC agreement “should have sought advice from the members before accepting the instrument of accession from Sierra Leone.”
Despite the uncertainty on the status of Sierra Leone’s IOTC membership, Sierra Leone Fisheries and Marine Resources Minister Emma Kowa-Jalloh had in September 2018 requested the commission give the country's government, which came into power in March 2018, time to recover from a devastating ebola outbreak – in addition to a devastating landslide and flooding disaster that ripped through Sierra Leone's capital city, Freetown, in 2017 – before its be required to pay back its obligations to international organizations, including the IOTC.
However, for the case of Guinea, IOTC said the country had, in February 2016, “submitted a formal letter of withdrawal from the IOTC agreement.”
O’Brien said IOTC members with arrears may be denied access to the IOTC's meeting participation fund, especially if the outstanding debt “equals or exceeds the amount of the contributions due for the two preceding calendar years.”
Photo courtesy of the IOTC