IPNLF and likeminded delegations are urging the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas to implement management measures that support sustainable and equitable tuna fisheries in the Atlantic Ocean

The International Pole & Line Foundation (IPNLF), the only non-profit association that is solely committed to promoting responsible one-by-one tuna fisheries and supply chains, is calling on the 53 Contracting Parties of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) to immediately adopt much-needed management measures that deliver long-term sustainable and equitable tuna fisheries in the Atlantic Ocean.

The ICCAT Convention Area is home to several one-by-one tuna fisheries, including pole-and-line, troll and handline, which harvest temperate and tropical Atlantic tunas in at least 16 Atlantic coastal states. All of these fisheries require the sustainable management of internationally shared fish stocks by ICCAT to support their local communities, but the current management in place is falling well short of this requirement.

Ahead of this year’s ICCAT meeting, which convenes in Palma de Mallorca, Spain, on 18-25 November 2019, IPNLF has released its Position Statement, calling for urgent agreed action on a number of fishery management challenges, including the unsustainable catch levels of key tuna stocks. In 2018, bigeye and yellowfin total allowable catches (TACs) were exceeded by as much as 13% and 23% respectively.

IPNLF also insists that the lack of accountability in the current management regime is another critical shortcoming that must be immediately addressed. Currently, just eight ICCAT Contracting Parties, Cooperating non-Contracting Parties, Entities or Fishing Entities (CPCs collectively) sit on the bigeye allocation table and there are no mechanisms in place to ensure compliance with the yellowfin TAC. To increase accountability, IPNLF is calling for additional CPCs to be added to the table by reducing the minor harvester threshold and to also include all CPCs with large purse seine vessels.

“The Atlantic Ocean’s one-by-one tuna fisheries are a vital source of food and contribute to the livelihoods of numerous coastal communities whose future now hangs in the balance. It is essential that the ICCAT decision makers act in the best interests of these small-scale fishers by ending the overfishing of shared stocks and fixing those management measures that are not fit for purpose. IPNLF will be at the meeting, working alongside other similarly aligned delegates and pushing for meaningful change,” says Yaiza Dronkers, Policy & Outreach Officer at IPNLF.

Qayiso Mketsu, South African delegate at ICCAT, and Deputy Director of the Department of Agriculture Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) has been instrumental in drafting new recommendations on tropical tunas for many years. He agrees, “By no means can we permit another impasse on the negotiation for improving Atlantic Ocean tropical tuna management.  South Africa will continue its staunch efforts and leadership to work towards a meaningful agreement that ensures the Commission lives up to its mandate to ensure the long-term sustainability of highly migratory tunas and tuna-like species. We urge other governments to come to the meeting with a collaborative attitude to work towards the protection of our common tropical tuna resources.”

The call for a greater emphasis on socio-economic issues is echoed by Macu da Silva, representative of the artisanal tuna fishery in the Canary Islands, who adds, “Our selective and artisanal tuna fishery is highly dependent on the sustainable catch of bigeye tuna in our coastal waters. This year, we had to stop fishing for this tuna before the fishing season had kicked off as large-scale purse seine fleets used up most of the quota allocated to Spain. It is a disgrace and extremely sad that vulnerable, community oriented fisheries like ours have to carry the burden of a problem caused by the uncontrolled increase of efficiency and capacity of the most industrialised fisheries. We dearly hope that decision-makers not only focus on protecting our fish, but especially on the people most dependent on this valuable resource.”

Specifically, IPNLF’s Policy Statement urges ICCAT members to expedite the following actions:

  • Reduce the bigeye total allowable catch (TAC), in line with the advice of SCRS (ICCAT’s scientific body), to rebuild the stock within a reasonable timeframe
  • Reduce yellowfin catches to align with the conclusions of SCRS’s 2019 report, which was strongly concerned that catches above 120,000 tonnes are expected to further degrade the condition of the yellowfin stock
  • Enhance compliance and accountability by including more ICCAT CPCs at the allocation table, increasing observer coverage (100% for purse seine and 20% for longline), and eliminating the carry-over of “unused” catch limits
  • Protect special requirements and rights of developing coastal states by considering and applying the ICCAT allocation criteria (Resolution 15-13)
  • Implement stricter limits on the use of drifting fish aggregating devices (dFADs), supply vessels and a suitable time-area closure to lower catch rates of juvenile bigeye and yellowfin tunas to within sustainable limits. These measures must be science-based and accompanied by effective monitoring and control. For example, transparent, independent and harmonised control of operational (dFAD) buoy numbers is required to verify compliance
  • Cap the capacity of industrial longline and purse seine fleets
  • Advance the development and implementation of harvest strategies for key species as a matter of priority
  • Adopt measures to reduce bycatches and to protect endangered, threatened, or protected species, including sharks, marlins, seabirds, cetaceans and turtles

IPNLF’s full Position Statement ahead of the 26th Regular Meeting of ICCAT in Palma de Mallorca is available here.