Date: August 16, 2018

While ISSF and WWF staff prepare to attend the IATTC annual meeting from August 24-30, let’s recall the good outcomes from last year’s meeting in Mexico, where several important WWF recommendations and ISSF “asks” to the Commission on tropical tuna conservation in the Eastern Pacific Ocean (EPO) — consistent with scientific advice — were met:

However, the Commission left other equally important topics on the table, such as:

ISSF’s and WWF’s 2018 IATTC position statements detail these and other priority topics for the August meeting. You can read these statements in full to understand what ISSF and WWF believe is at stake in the EPO — and what IATTC needs to do to make tangible progress.

Electronic Monitoring and Fishery Sustainability

Managing a dynamic fishery requires dynamic decision-making: RFMOs like the IATTC must adapt and evolve its decisions holistically — and consider various options.

In that spirit, ISSF and WWF continue to offer perspectives and make requests for action. And it’s critical to share scientific expertise directly with RFMO decision-makers to inform and enhance their annual discussions.

At the upcoming meeting, ISSF will host an invitational side event on the first day of the Commission Meeting for IATTC delegations that examines FADs and electronic monitoring (EM). IATTC’s Dr. Cleridy Lennert-Cody will talk about FAD usage in the EPO, and ISSF’s vice president of science Dr. Victor Restrepo will reflect on five years of EM outcomes on purse seiners.

There are two reasons to highlight research on FAD sets and EM best practices at the start of the IATTC meeting this year.

Building a Better FAD Management Measure

First, last year the IATTC adopted a limit on active FADs – joining the other tuna RFMOs that have done the same.  But there are few scientific studies on either the appropriateness of these limits or optimal science-based limits. 

Such scientific research is needed – including detailed data on the numbers of FADs that are deployed, and how they are used after deployment – to support the development of effective FAD management measures.

ISSF is pleased to showcase the research on FAD-related activity that was conducted in collaboration with IATTC. ISSF and WWF hope it can form the basis for more informed decisions on FAD management in the EPO, as well as in other oceans.

E-Monitoring and Best Practices

The ISSF event is also highlighting electronic monitoring because it can be part of the data solution.

For example, e-monitoring systems on tuna vessels can deliver essential quantitative data on FAD deployments, designs, sets and catch per effort – as a complement to human observer reporting, or to increase overall coverage rates. IATTC’s current observer requirement for longliners and small purse-seine vessels, after all, is still a paltry minimum of 5% (which we hope IATTC will soon remedy).

Even on vessels with 100% human observers, EM systems can capture information that is difficult for them to gather — such as seeing the FAD deployments and bycatch handling on the deck, or sampling from larger volumes of catch in purse seine nets to estimate species and size composition.

A better understanding of purse seiners’ FAD deployments, as well as more complete information on FAD numbers and FAD sets per vessel, would help IATTC pass more targeted, science-driven management measures. IATTC’s own scientific staff has raised concerns about unchecked growth in the number of FAD sets.

We are enthusiastic about EM for yet another reason (that won’t surprise anyone who’s followed Dr. Moreno’s research in recent years). EM technology can monitor the use of non-entangling (NE) FAD designs — long advocated by ISSF and WWF — and pave the way for greater support for less-harmful and biodegradable FADs.

ISSF Guidance for Implementing Electronic Monitoring

Along with strengthening the use of NE FADs and fostering the development of bio-FAD designs, RFMOs like IATTC need to support the expansion of EM. 

In our position statements, we’re asking IATTC to develop electronic monitoring and reporting standards for both longline and purse-seine vessels to ultimately achieve 100% observer coverage: (1) in the longline fishery and (2) for all vessel classes in the purse seine fishery.

A recent ISSF report, ISSF 2018-04: Minimum Standards for Electronic Monitoring in Tropical Tuna Purse Seine Fisheries, recommends best practices for electronic monitoring systems (EMS), including but not limited to:

  • EMS should be tested and certified by a third party.
  • EMS must be independent from the crew during a trip (except for system maintenance).
  • EMS should be tamper proof and able to capture four months of data at minimum.
  • EMS software should allow effective, efficient review of images.

Many of these recommendations are relevant to longline fisheries as well; see ISSF 2016-07: Application of Electronic Monitoring Systems in Tuna Longline Fisheries. International Workshop. These and other original scientific and workshop reports can be downloaded from the ISSF site.

We underscore the need for IATTC delegations to recognize the importance of this work to ensure that the fisheries in the region can continue to provide reliable jobs, consistent supply of food, and viable business and development opportunities throughout the region.   

All RFMOs must continue to make demonstrable progress in carrying out their mandates to sustainably manage tuna resources for the long term. We look forward to continued collaboration in calling for such action and in offering our many resources and tools to support RFMOs like the IATTC in their efforts.


Dr. Gala Moreno is an ISSF scientist-consultant, and Pablo Guerrero is director of fisheries for WWF-Ecuador.