Blue Marine Foundation and the International Pole and Line Foundation (IPNLF) express their disappointment in the outcome of the 26th Session of the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC). During the five-day meeting in Seychelles, no new stock rebuilding plan was adopted for overfished yellowfin tuna and no new management measure was put in place for drifting fish aggregating devices (dFADs). The absence of both of these resolutions means that the overfishing of yellowfin tuna – a stock that has been in the red since 2015 – will continue for at least another year.
Both Blue Marine and IPNLF called for a sustained 30 per cent catch reduction to be adopted at the IOTC Commission meeting, as this is the catch reduction necessary to bring about a reasonable likelihood of stock recovery by 2030, according to the IOTC’s Scientific Committee report. This reduction would necessitate a new catch limit of roughly 301,000 tonnes – almost 130,000 tonnes less than was caught in 2020.
While no new stock rebuilding plan was agreed, delegations will meet intersessionally to decide whether a special session on yellowfin tuna will be held before next year’s Commission meeting. Similarly, a special session will be held to address the ongoing issue of FAD management.
Despite failing to deal with the most pressing items on the agenda, several other conservation and management measures were adopted over the course of the week. Blue Marine and IPNLF would like to commend Maldives on the adoption of their proposal on climate change that was co-sponsored by Seychelles, South Africa, Mauritius, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Thailand, the EU and France (overseas territories). A management procedure for bigeye tuna put forward by Australia and co-sponsored by Maldives, Pakistan, Tanzania, South Africa and the EU was also adopted over the course of the week-long meeting.
We also commend the leadership shown by both Kenya and South Africa in their attempts to improve the management of dFADs, which enable industrial purse seine vessels to catch more juvenile yellowfin tuna than any other gear in the Indian Ocean – with 97% of the yellowfin tuna caught around dFADs in the Indian Ocean by purse seiners being juveniles.
Despite the best efforts of delegations like Maldives, an unwillingness to compromise on the part of other IOTC members, coupled with sustained objections by several delegations, has meant that yet another opportunity to set the yellowfin and skipjack stocks onto a positive trajectory has been missed, putting the stocks, the broader marine ecosystem and the millions of livelihoods reliant upon them at risk.