[11 JUNE 2019/LONDON, UK] The International Pole & Line Foundation (IPNLF) is calling on members of the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) to work in the best interests of the region’s tuna resource and its coastal fisheries when the regional fisheries management organisation’s 23rd annual meeting convenes in Hyderabad, India, on 17-21 May 2019.
With the last two IOTC meetings failing to build on the progress made through the introduction of the world’s first harvest control rule (HCR) for skipjack tuna in 2016, IPNLF warns that without significant, fresh momentum, the long-term viability of the region’s tuna fisheries and the coastal communities reliant upon them could be under threat.
Ahead of this year’s meeting, IPNLF has identified five crucial but achievable actions that will help get the IOTC back on track:
Adopt a rebuilding plan for yellowfin tuna that enables the stock to recover by 2024
Progress the allocation process in such a way that recognises the legitimate rights of the region’s developing coastal states
Improve the management of drifting fish aggregating devices (dFADs)
Accelerate the development of harvest strategies
Improve monitoring, control and surveillance (MCS) and data collection
“The IOTC needs to regain the momentum it had three years ago to end the overfishing of yellowfin tuna and establish a framework of robust management measures. Not only are these essential to the sustainability of the tuna resource, they will help safeguard and nurture the region’s developing but vulnerable coastal states that depend on this tuna for food security, revenue generation and local employment. At a time when we are all conscious of our contributions to the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals, this is an ideal opportunity for the IOTC to demonstrate that it takes its responsibilities seriously,” says Martin Purves, Managing Director of IPNLF.
Covering 70 million square kilometres, the Indian Ocean is one of the world’s most economically important fishing areas, accounting for approximately 20% of the world’s production of tuna. As well as being a very important source of tuna in consumer markets all over the world, these fish are a vital source of protein and income for many coastal communities in the region. However, the long-term sustainability of these tuna stocks, particularly its yellowfin resource, are increasingly being called into question.
Adrian Lehman, Purchaser for Canned Tuna at Migros adds, "There is not a moment to lose. Consumers everywhere are paying very close attention to where their food is coming from, how it is produced and the potential impacts that it has. If the IOTC fails to put a sufficiently dynamic rebuilding plan in place for the Indian Ocean’s yellowfin tuna then there will surely be consequences all along the supply chain, with the region’s many coastal communities unfortunately but probably the most at risk.”
The widespread use of drifting-FADs by industrial purse-seine fishing vessels has been identified as a major contributor to the yellowfin overfishing problem. As tuna are attracted to the satellite-monitored rafts and netting, they offer a highly-effective method of improving catch rates and reducing operating costs. Several thousand of these artificial objects are deployed into the Indian Ocean every year. In addition to being associated with the catch of juvenile tuna, these devices are linked to the bycatch of vulnerable non-target species such as sharks and turtles, while a large proportion end up stranded on sensitive coastal habitats.
Alarmingly, the EU has posted a proposal for this year’s meeting that would allow fisheries managers to actually ignore the coastal habitat damage and marine litter contribution of drifting-FADs. If this proposition is actually adopted, it would be a major step backwards for the IOTC and set a dangerous precedent.
IPNLF’s full Position Statement ahead of the 23rd Annual Session of the IOTC is available here.