Despite the unusual circumstances imposed by COVID this year, progress on rebuilding the overfished Indian Ocean yellowfin tuna stock cannot be delayed any longer. The International Pole & Line Foundation (IPNLF) is a global charity that promotes the effective management of tuna stocks, while also safeguarding the local livelihoods they support. IPNLF promotes sustainable development through the responsible use of the marine environment and the empowerment of local coastal communities to conserve biodiversity, safeguard food security, support their livelihoods, build climate resilience and eradicate poverty. IPNLF’s mission is to empower responsible fisheries, which give back to the seas and the people that depend on them. We work across science, policy and the seafood supply chain to achieve this.
Despite the unusual circumstances imposed by COVID this year, progress on rebuilding the overfished Indian Ocean yellowfin tuna stock cannot be delayed any longer. The consequences of Resolution 19/01 – On an interim plan for rebuilding the Indian Ocean yellowfin tuna stock in the IOTC area of competence – continuing to be ineffective will be felt most critically by small-scale tuna fisheries, especially those in developing coastal states that provide critical livelihood support to coastal communities.
The United Nations Fish Stock Agreement (UNFSA) recognises the application of the precautionary approach as a general principle for sound fisheries management, and the IOTC acknowledged the importance of applying the precautionary approach  to the management of tropical tuna in the Indian Ocean with the adoption of Resolution 12/01.
As such, in the interest of swiftly progressing the vitally important revision and effective implementation of Resolution 19/01, IPNLF suggests the following improvements:
1. All CPCs should urgently agree, at a minimum, to the total catch reduction of 20% for yellowfin tuna. Such an approach would be aligned with current recommendations from the IOTC’s Scientific Committee and support the precautionary approach as is required under Resolution 12/01.
2. Revision of the Resolution should focus on developing and agreeing on robust management issues. Delaying the implementation of management measures further by solely focusing on non-compliance issues instead of first putting a framework in place, only serves to worsen the current stock situation, contradicts the collaborative and inclusive global pursuit of managing shared fisheries resources with principles enshrined under UNCLOS, and hampers alignment with the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
3. All contracting parties and stakeholders should recognise that not all aspects of 19/01 require revision. Amendments to 19/01 should strategically focus on key shortcomings of the interim measure, while at the same time acknowledging the urgency of resolving the consistent overfishing of this valuable shared stock. As such, the already agreed catch reduction ratios by different fishing gears, and the relative contributions theses gears make to the overfished stock status of yellowfin, should still form the basis of a new agreement as they represent an agreed precedent which is based on an equitable framework. Ignoring critically important context while pushing for equal cuts across the board is irresponsible, unfair and will only delay the process.
4. The most pragmatic way of achieving the required minimum total catch reduction of 20% is to simply double all of the currently agreed catch reductions by fishing gear as stated in 19/01, while only allowing exemptions as set out in paragraph 6 below.
5. This will result in a total annual reduction of 80,000 tonnes, which is equivalent to a 20% reduction of total catch based on the 2014 level for all fleets other than the Seychelles purse seine fleet where 2015 catch applied. In the case of Small Island Developing States, IOTC members that contributed less than 4% of the total yellowfin catch of the Indian Ocean in 2017 shall reduce their purse seine catch by 15% of 2018 levels.
6. Noting that more than half of the yellowfin catches taken in the Indian Ocean where exempted from catch reductions under Resolution 19/01, IPNLF is of the opinion that all fleets should play their part in rebuilding the yellowfin stock and that exemptions should only apply to artisanal fleets catching less than 2,000 tonnes per year. However, should their catches exceed 2,000 tonnes in any year, then the incremental catch of these artisanal fleets should also be subject to reductions as proposed in paragraph 4 above.
7. IPNLF considers the mechanism for paying back any over-catch as adequate, and that it should thus be maintained as an already agreed precedent within the interim Measure.
8. Noting that supply vessels contribute to the increase in effort and capacity of purse seiners, that the number of supply vessels has increased significantly over the years and that they assist purse seiners in the deployment and retrieval of dFADs, further contributing to the current overfished status of the yellowfin stock, IPNLF calls on the Commission to also phase out all supply vessels by the end of 2021.