NGOs urge rebuilding plan for overfished yellowfin tuna stocks ahead of IOTC meeting

Non-governmental organizations are calling on the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) to adopt a plan for rebuilding the Indian Ocean yellowfin tuna stock and improve the management of fish aggregating devices (FADs) to reduce catches of juvenile tropical tunas.

The Blue Marine Foundation (BLUE) and the International Pole and Line Foundation (IPNLF), in a statement last week, said that these measures should be adopted during the upcoming virtual IOTC session, scheduled to take place 7 to 11 June, 2021.

According to the two organizations, the fishing mortality of yellowfin tuna in 2017 was 20 percent above the target reference point, and that spawning biomass was 17 percent lower than the target. An earlier proposal, with a lower total allowable catch, was tabled at an IOTC meeting earlier this year. Both BLUE and IPNLF backed that proposal and is backing a new proposal, both made by the Maldives.

“The proposal tabled by Maldives ... acknowledges this and correctly notes that a reduction in catch of 16.7 percent compared to 2017 levels is required to ensure the timely recovery of the stock. This would necessitate a catch limit of roughly 341,000 [metric] tons,” the organizations said.

The Maldives has now submitted a new proposal with a higher total allowable catch (TAC) of 383,000 MT. The Maldives proposal also provides a significant catch “buffer” of over 20,000 MT, by assigning 2,000 MT catch limits to IOTC members who have fished very little or not at all in the past.

“The proposal put forward by Maldives and its co-sponsors is equitable, removes all exemptions, is gear-type neutral, and takes into account the needs of developing coastal states and small island developing states,” BLUE and IPNLF said. “Importantly, it would bring about the IOTC’s first formal TAC for yellowfin tuna, and an almost 15 percent reduction from 2019 catch levels.” 

The Pew Charitable Trusts also called for action to reduce yellowfin tuna catches. Yellowfin tuna has been classified as overfished since 2015, and the skipjack catch limit based on the harvest control rule has been exceeded every year since its adoption, it said.

“Despite a special session of the commission meeting in March to address these issues, they remain unresolved. The commission must therefore address and resolve both of these issues in the June meeting. The credibility of IOTC – and market access for these stocks – depends on it,” it said in a statement. 

Pew also urged IOTC to improve monitoring, reporting, and management of transshipment activities in the Indian Ocean. The organization said in the last 10 years, the amount of fish transshipped has significantly increased, with reported IOTC transshipment events rising 87 percent between 2014 and 2019. 

“However, despite this upward trend, current regulatory control and monitoring of transshipment have remained relatively unchanged since 2012,” Pew said. 

Photo courtesy of gdsfilip/Shutterstock


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