Following the first intersessional meeting of Panel 1 in June 2022, IPNLF thanks the Panel 1 Chair for providing a draft proposal to potentially replace Recommendation 21-01. However, we feel it is important to highlight the importance of taking a science-based approach to decision making, and the need to adopt a precautionary approach when dealing with overfished stocks and many uncertainties. During the June meeting of Panel 1 the Chair of the Standing Committee on Research and Statistics (SCRS) highlighted the need for a precautionary approach from the outset, while also highlighting uncertainties in the projections presented to that meeting. It was also stressed that it’s important the Commission exhibits unity in order to reach consensus on key issues.
The primary issue currently facing Panel 1 is rebuilding the bigeye tuna stock, and setting a sustainable Total Allowable Catch (TAC) for this stock moving forwards. IPNLF are concerned by the pressure applied by some delegations to increase the bigeye tuna stock’s Total Allowable Catch (TAC), some by as much as 20%, despite the fact that the stock remains in an overfished state. Increases in catch will inevitably delay recovery of the stock to a point where it can support the maximum sustainable yield (MSY). A number of States have suggested the TAC should be increased in order to meet the needs of developing coastal states. IPNLF believes that 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. Instead, the Commission should adopt an equitable and precautionary approach which provides a strong likelihood of stock recovery within the next 2 generations. The selected approach must also support the needs and aspirations of developing coastal States through achieving a more equitable allocation of fishing opportunities, irrespective of the overarching TAC. In that respect, IPNLF would like to highlight that the allocation table proposed by Côte d’Ivoire, Gabon, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea (Rep), Guinea-Bissau, Mauritania, Morocco, Nigeria, Sao Tomé and Principe, and Senegal will support this, covers all ICCAT members for the first time in history, and should therefore be the priority document further discussed to achieve agreement on the resultant Recommendation.
In the Atlantic, both the bigeye and yellowfin tuna stocks face immense pressure due to the excessive juvenile harvests which are driven most by industrial purse seine fleets’ use of drifting fish aggregating devices (dFADs). The SCRS has clearly and regularly emphasised the need to protect both the bigeye and yellowfin tuna stocks from increased juvenile catches, driven by dFAD use, including during the most recent Panel 1 meeting. This concern is also emphasised in the current Recommendation 21/01. With this in mind, IPNLF highlights that it is critical the Commission follows such advice and works to implement effective dFAD management measures in time for the Annual Session later this year, and we urge the Commission to further consider reducing the number of dFADs each vessel is permitted to deploy between 2023-2027.
Another essential part of effective dFAD management is comprehensive and transparent data reporting that can also illustrate compliance with measures, for which the dFAD Registry and Independent FAD Monitoring System now proposed in IOTC may provide similar benefits if also implemented in the Atlantic. It is important to note that CPCs should have submitted their FAD data to the SCRS by the 31st of July this year, in line with Recommendation 21/01. We remind the Commission that the current Recommendation states that CPCs which do not report such data “shall be prohibited from setting on FADs until such data have been received by the SCRS”. We also highlight the paragraph stating that “as of January 2021 all FADs deployed are non-entangling, and constructed from biodegradable materials” and that annual reports should illustrate steps undertaken to comply with these provisions. IPNLF urges the Commission to follow up before the Annual Session and confirm whether or not these requests have been complied with, as a critical means of informing improvements to FAD management measures into the future.
In addition to FAD management improvements, we also urge the Commission to implement harvest control rules (HCRs) for all tropical tuna as soon as possible.