IOTC passes resolution tightening at-sea tuna transshipment rules

The Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) has passed a resolution aiming to improve the rules and oversight procedures on transshipment of tuna in the Indian Ocean.

The Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) has passed a resolution aiming to improve the rules and oversight procedures on transshipment of tuna in the Indian Ocean.

The resolution, the text of which was slightly amended at the request of the Indonesian and Japanese delegations, was passed at the IOTC’s 26th session and associated meetings, held in Victoria, Seychelles, from 16 to 20 May. According to the commission, it is one step forward in combating illegal, unregulated, and unreported (IUU) fishing in the region.

According to the resolution, unchecked at-sea transshipment within the IOTC’s jurisdiction has been fueling organized tuna-laundering operations, with large amounts of tuna caught by vessels fishing illegally being transshipped under the auspices of licensed fishing vessels.

The resolution requires monitoring of all transshipment activities under IOTC jurisdiction, including industrial tuna-fishing vessels. The resolution also called for data collection on all large-scale vessels.

The resolution requires all transshipment operations of tuna and tuna-like species and sharks under IOTC jurisdiction to take place in port. In addition, all IOTC member-countries must take necessary measures to ensure all large-scale tuna vessels comply with the new regulations. The only exception is for transshipment operations within the Maldives between pole-and-line fishing vessels and collector vessels flagged in the Maldives and registered on the IOTC Record of Authorized Vessels that have already been exempted from the data-reporting requirements specified in annexes to the resolution.

The IOTC also established a program to monitor transshipment applying to large-scale tuna longline fishing vessels (LSTLVs) and to carrier vessels authorized to receive transshipments from these vessels.

“No at-sea transshipment of tuna and tuna-like species and sharks by fishing vessels other than LSTLVs shall be allowed,” the resolution said. “This resolution does not apply to transshipments outside the IOTC area of competence, where such transshipment is subject to a comparable monitoring program established by another regional fisheries management organization.”

Although the resolution gives the contracting countries that flag LSTLVs the liberty to determine whether or not to authorize them to transship at sea, a flag country may only authorize at-sea transshipment if it is conducted in accordance with specific procedures spelled out in the resolution.

Additionally, carrier vessels must be authorized by the IOTC to conduct transshipments, with IOTC members now required to submit a detailed list of carrier vessels that are approved to receive transshipments from LSTLVs. The list of approved vessels will be made public by the IOTC secretariat, though it can be amended at any time by IOTC member-countries. All carrier vessels authorized for transshipment will be required to install and operate a vessel-monitoring system "to minimize incidents of illegal operations," according to the IOTC.

The passage of the resolution comes at a time when at-sea transshipment within the IOTC area is grappling with management issues. A study by The Pew Charitable Trusts estimated the quantity of fish transshipped within the IOTC area of competence surged by 55 percent between 2014 and 2019, while the “management and monitoring of these events in the IOTC convention area remain unchanged.”

“Without clear rules and thorough oversight, transshipment can undermine management efforts for tuna stocks worth USD 8.6 billion a year [EUR 8.1 billion] and help bad actors move illegally caught products into the global supply chain,” the study said.  

Photo courtesy of The Pew Charitable Trusts


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