Nonprofit pressure pays off with IATTC approval of albacore harvest strategy

A tuna fishing vessel on the ocean.

Multiple NGOs pushing the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC) for a full harvest strategy for North Pacific albacore tuna got their wish at the latest meeting of the regional fisheries management organization (RFMO).

The annual meeting of the  IATTC took place from 7 to 11 August in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, and several marine sustainability nonprofit organizations continued their calls for the RFMO to adopt a full harvest strategy – including harvest control rules – for North Pacific albacore tuna before the meeting.

The IATTC – the RFMO for the  Eastern Pacific Ocean – and the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) – another RFMO that manages tuna stocks – have worked together for eight years to develop a harvest strategy for North Pacific albacore, as the species migrates across the boundaries of the two RFMOs. The final piece of the puzzle was to approve a “harvest control rule.”

Traditional strategies for stock management often entail a reactionary approach, where researchers gather data about a stock’s health and policymakers then negotiate catch limits after reviewing the data. Full harvest strategies, on the other hand, set guidelines in advance that define actions authorities will take when stock assessments, catch data, and return on effort, among other metrics, reach a predetermined threshold.

Albacore tuna in the Pacific Ocean has two stock classifications: North Pacific and South Pacific, both of which the WCPFC and the IATTC jointly manage. As the two RFMOs share management of the stock, how effective management measures will be relies on the two RFMOs working in tandem.

There was a harvest strategy already in place for North Pacific albacore, but it lacked the harvest control rule that would set predetermined catch or fishing effort limits based on the status of the stock. In early July, the WCPFC Northern Committee amended its North Pacific albacore harvest strategy to include a harvest control rule, but it still needs full approval at the RFMO’s annual meeting in December.

Ahead of the annual IATTC meeting, representatives from Canada, Japan, and the U.S. submitted a proposal

Photo courtesy of the ISSF 

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