IOTC meeting offers chance for compromise as EU objects to dFAD rules

A recently approved Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) measure instituting a closure period for drifting fish-aggregating devices (dFADs) is continuing to cause tension, with the European Union recently announcing it is objecting to the decision. 

The E.U. is putting forward two new proposals at the next meeting: one to replace the dFAD rule to which it has objected, and another to set new tropical tuna quotas, in place of an earlier measure to which other parties have objected.

Several IOTC members have already opted out of the conservation management measure, and the E.U. – one of the largest users of dFADs in the Indian Ocean – has called the vote an effort to expel Europeans from the region’s fishery. The divisive decision on dFADs comes in the wake of a spat over a previous IOTC measure lowering catch limits for yellowfin tuna, which was adopted by majority vote in January 2022.

The divisions over the dFAD closure period fall between coastal states that use pole-and-line gear or stationary FADs and countries that operate purse-seine fleets fishing dependent on the use of dFADs.

Any failure to reach consensus on the issue could make the IOTC's management efforts ineffective. A commission meeting scheduled for May 2023 offers a chance to forge compromises and gain unanimous approval. 

At the IOTC's special meeting from 3 to 5 February, a majority of voting members approved an annual 72-day closure period for dFADs, as well as a reduction in the total number of dFADs allowed per vessel; and the establishment of a mandatory FAD registration program.

Approving a conservation management measure (CMM) by majority vote is unusual for an RFMO, as member-countries typically prefer pursuing compromises that gain unanimous consent, as IOTC rules allows any objecting nations to be exempted from any new management measures, so long as they formally object.

The next IOTC meeting will take place 8 to 12 May, 2023, in Mauritius. Several proposals to be considered at the meeting were submitted by the 8 April deadline and are available on the S27 meeting page.

The E.U. has put forward two different proposals, including one ...

Photo courtesy of Coalition for Fair Fisheries Arrangements  

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