IOTC’s planned driftnet regulations taking shape

Published on
December 30, 2020

As the scheduled total ban on the use of large-scale drift gillnets within the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission’s (IOTC) area of mandate draws near, the organization has asked its members and cooperating entities to submit to the IOTC Secretariat a complete list of flagged vessels operating in the high seas by 31 December, 2020.

The IOTC plans to ban the use of large-scale drift gillnets by contracting parties and cooperating non-contracting parties (CPCs) by 1 January, 2022, to eliminate their adverse impact on ecosystems and to reduce risk of catching species that are of concern to the commission.

The goal of forming a complete list of large-scale drift gillnets used by CPC-flagged vessels is to ease the monitoring aspect of implementing IOTC Resolution 17/07 on the use of the fishing gear, according to IOTC Executive Secretary Christopher O’Brien.

IOTC has provided a template “to facilitate the reporting of the list of flagged vessels using large-scale driftnets in the [exclusive economic zones],” O’Brien said.

There is, according to IOTC, a large number of vessels engaged in large-scale driftnet fishing in IOTC members’ EEZs and offshore waters, targeting especially “schooling pelagic species like herring, mackerel, and sardines, but also for salmon and tuna and pelagic squid are captured with such gears.”

Each of the CPCs are required under IOTC Resolution 17/07 - which supersedes the previous Resolution 12/12 - to “take all necessary measures to prohibit their fishing vessels from using large-scale driftnets while on the high seas within the IOTC area of competence by 1 January 2022.”

“CPCs shall include in their annual reports of implementation a summary of monitoring, control, and surveillance actions related to large-scale driftnet fishing in the IOTC area of competence,” the commission said in a previous notice to members.

Previous surveys indicated driftnets being used in the IOTC area to be at least 4,000 meters long, and up to 7,000 meters long, within EEZs. According to the commission, the large-scale drift gillnets are likely to have “negative ecological impacts in areas frequented by marine mammals and turtles.”  

Photo courtesy of Keni/Shutterstock

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