IOTC to discuss validity of disputed vote on Kenya’s proposal

Published on
November 24, 2021
Fishermen catch tuna via pole and line fishing.

The Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) has called for an urgent special session on 29 November to discuss the validity of a disputed vote on a proposal by Kenya on the improvement of the management of drifting fish-aggregating devices (dFADs).

The alleged voting malpractice during the June 2021 IOTC session saw the proposal – PropE_Rev2, co-sponsored by Sri Lanka, the Maldives, Mozambique, Pakistan, Somalia, South Africa, Indonesia, and Tanzania – objected to by the European Union, Japan, and South Korea. The objection called for a secret ballot on the vote, and its outcome is now being disputed.

“Controversy surrounding the vote began with the European Union calling for a secret ballot in place of the usual hand-raising voting mechanism,” a joint statement by Blue Marine Foundation (BMF) and the International Pole and Line Foundation (IPNLF) said. They say 12 votes were cast in favor of the Kenyan proposal, five votes against, and two votes of abstention.

“Following the conclusion of the session, it became clear that abstentions do not count towards the total number of votes, meaning that a two-thirds majority was reached and that the dFAD resolution – PropE_Rev2 – put forward by Kenya should have been adopted by the IOTC,” the joint statement said.

The organizations say the IOTC Secretariat “erroneously counted the abstentions as ‘votes cast,’ implying that the required two-thirds majority had not been reached.”

Due to the emerging dispute on the controversial voting, members agreed to have the IOTC Secretariat contact the FAO Legal Office “for clarity on this matter.”

Kenya’s Director General of State Department of Fisheries, Aquaculture, and Blue Economy Daniel Mungai had in a 30 September letter to the IOTC confirmed the FAO legal office said “abstentions do not count towards the vote and as such the proposal was adopted.”

Kenya’s proposal will improve the management of dFADs in the Indian Ocean, BMF and IPNLF said.

“Better management of drifting fish-aggregating devices used by industrial purse-seine fleets is needed urgently in tuna fisheries across the globe, but especially in the Indian Ocean where yellowfin tuna is overfished and subject to continued overfishing due, in part, to the millions of juvenile fish caught around these devices each year,” the joint BMF and IPNLF said.

The organizations are now urging IOTC and its members to adopt PropE_Rev2 at the 29 November  Special Session “on the basis that a two-thirds majority was reached in June and that improved dFAD management in the Indian Ocean is needed as a matter of urgency to save the yellowfin tuna stock from further decline.”

“Should a revote be called, we call on all IOTC members to vote in favor of this important resolution,” their statement said.

Earlier, more than 120 businesses and organizations endorsed BMF’s minimum requirements for responsible drifting FAD use, which, previously presented to the IOTC FAD Working Group.

The presentation made clear the harmful impacts that dFADs have on fish stocks and the marine environment, as well as the steps that should be taken to mitigate these impacts, the NGOs said.

Photo courtesy of teh International Pole and Line Foundation

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