Three days of deliberations at the hybrid ICCAT Panel 1 intersessional meeting, held in the Azores, concluded last week. This meeting focused mostly on reviewing management measures specific to the bigeye tuna stock, alongside reviewing current measures for other tropical tuna species. Although the bigeye tuna stock is no longer subject to overfishing, it remains overfished. Therefore, it’s important to apply a precautionary approach while reviewing management measures to give the stock the greatest probability of recovering within the shortest agreeable timeframe. IPNLF were pleased to see the Chair of the Standing Committee on Research and Statistics (SCRS) promoting a precautionary approach from the outset while also highlighting uncertainties in the projections. The need to protect both the bigeye and yellowfin tuna stocks from excessive juvenile harvests, which are driven most by the purse seine fleets use of drifting fish aggregating devices (dFADs), was clearly and regularly emphasised as it is in the current Recommendation 21/01. Despite efforts by some delegations with large purse seine fishing interests to deviate from this scientific advice, we particularly applaud delegations from West Africa, Brazil and South Africa for following advice from the SCRS and maintaining measures that help mitigate the negative impacts of dFAD use. Although this meeting failed to reach consensus on a number of key issues, fruitful discussions brought delegations closer to hopefully achieving consensus during the Annual Session later this year.
IPNLF are concerned by the pressure from some delegations to increase the bigeye tuna stock’s Total Allowable Catch (TAC) by as much as 20%, despite the fact that the stock remains overfished. Increases in catch will inevitably delay the recovery of the stock to a point where it can support the maximum sustainable yield (MSY) that would provide maximum benefit to all Atlantic fisheries harvesting this stock. A number of developed States representing industrial scale fisheries suggested the TAC should be increased in order to meet the needs of developing coastal states. However, meeting the rights and needs of all nations, especially those representing small-scale fisheries supporting impoverished coastal communities in developing coastal States, should not be conditional on increased catches being imposed upon an already overfished stock. After much deliberation over a potential TAC increase from the current 61,500 t to between 70,000 t and 75,000 t, a consensus could not be reached during this meeting.
There continued to be a great focus on allocation throughout the meeting, and IPNLF are encouraged to see that supporting developing coastal States’ needs and aspirations through achieving a more equitable allocation of fishing opportunities seems to be a common objective. West African States presented a well-developed allocation key which, for the first time, would allocate tonnes based on percentages to each of the member States and featured an equalisation quota to enable the future growth of developing CPCs in line with their fishery and capacity developments, and allowed for new CPCs to enter into the fishery without detriment to others. Whilst this approach was widely supported, there are still a number of details to edit and processes to further define before all CPCs will be in a position to adopt the proposed system. Additionally, delegations could not come to a consensus on whether or not to permit allocation transfers or to allow a system for the carryover of unused quota into following years. It’s important that these processes are further discussed with equity and sustainability at the centre of the conversation, because transfers have the potential to amplify current equity imbalances by withdrawing fishing opportunities from developing states over time, while carryover mechanisms can perpetuate negative consequences for the stock in the future.
IPNLF were pleased to see the Scientific Committee and many delegations focus on the need to mitigate the consequences of harvesting large volumes of juvenile bigeye and yellowfin tuna. On the whole, delegations recognised that the use of dFADs is the largest driver of juvenile bigeye and yellowfin tuna harvests, and that this has amplified negative impacts on the entire stock. As a result, the current measures on dFAD limits and the dFAD closure were maintained. A key barrier to achieving consensus on decisions around dFAD management was the lack of data available on dFAD use. This is necessary for the SCRS to evidence the application of current management measures and assess their effectiveness. A precautionary approach should be maintained in the meantime and IPNLF hopes that all the data requested from purse seine fleets using dFADs will be submitted in support of informing improved management before the deadline of 31 July 2022.
As consensus was not reached in preparation for the Annual ICCAT Session in November, Panel 1 will now seekagreement on pending matters through written correspondence and/or potentially through an online or in-person meeting before the Annual Meeting in November. We hope to see further unity among delegations in order to reach consensus on key issues, while the current TAC and other measures will hopefully help improve stock conditions in the meantime.
Emilia Dyer – IPNLF Policy Manager – email@example.com