The International Pole & Line Foundation (IPNLF) is urging Members of the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) to strengthen the management of the region’s tuna fisheries. This year’s IOTC meeting convenes in La Réunion on 23-27 May. At this crucial meeting, fisheries managers from 32 countries must act to conserve the region’s multi-billion dollar tuna fisheries and protect the coastal communities reliant upon them.
“Fishing for certain tuna species has spiked in recent years to meet the global demand. As a result, Indian Ocean yellowfin tuna stocks are overfished, and other tuna species could go in that direction if immediate action is not taken at the meeting,” explains Adam Baske, Director of Policy & Outreach at IPNLF.
He continues, “The threats to sustainability in the Indian Ocean are significant and this poses a serious threat to coastal fishing communities. In the Maldives, one-by-one tuna fisheries are a critical aspect of the culture, economy, and diet, and support some 30,000 livelihoods.”
First and foremost, IPNLF wants to see IOTC Members adopt a harvest control rule (HCR) for skipjack tuna. This will safeguard this vitally important fishery by implementing pre-defined management actions and keep the population at healthy levels. In the last several years, the IOTC Members have spent significant resources to develop and analyse different models of management for skipjack tuna, and many feel the time is ripe for adoption.
The Maldives and other coastal states are championing the skipjack HCR proposal this year. IPNLF is also encouraged by the level of support from other countries, NGOs and market players.
“We are absolutely committed to ensuring sustainability of the Indian Ocean tuna stock – it is the livelihood of the island communities, and it is our future at stake. This is why we are taking the lead on the HCR proposal,” says Dr Mohamed Shainee, Minister of Fisheries and Agriculture for the Maldives.
IPNLF and its supply chain members also want the IOTC to take decisive action to rebuild the Indian Ocean yellowfin tuna stock, which is currently overfished. Holistic improvements to the management system should include science-based catch reductions, improved data collection, and strengthened controls.
IPNLF recognises other challenges in the management of the Indian Ocean’s tuna fisheries, and encourages progress in the following areas:
- Improvements in data acquisition and reporting;
- Enhance data collection and regulation of undermanaged fishing gears, including drifting fish aggregating devices (dFADs) and gillnets;
- Better understand recent technological and efficiency improvements in fishing gears (i.e. satellite technology, smart FADs, and supply vessels) to manage effort creep and avoid or reduce overfishing and overcapacity;
- Strengthen monitoring, control and surveillance, in particular via a centralised vessel monitoring system and increased observer coverage; and
- Adoption of measures to reduce by-catch and protect endangered, threatened, and protected species.