Posted by Pablo Guerrero & Holly Koehler

1 July 2014

Holly Koehler is ISSF’s Vice President for Policy and Outreach, and Pablo Guerrero is the Eastern Pacific Ocean Tuna Coordinator for WWF’s Smart Fishing Initiative, based in Ecuador.

Delegates from around the world will soon gather in Lima, Peru for annual the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC) Commission Meeting. This management body is responsible for managing tuna resources in the eastern Pacific Ocean (EPO) and it is the world’s oldest. Best practices like 100 percent observer coverage on purse seine vessels and comprehensive data collection have been the norm here for some time, making IATTC a leader in many areas of sustainable fisheries management. However, as is the case for all tuna RFMOs, fishing nations must continue to improve and strengthen their efforts to manage their region’s vital resources to keep pace with evolving international standards and market expectations.

Yellowfin, bigeye and bluefin

WWF and ISSF applaud the steps the IATTC has already taken to manage yellowfin and bigeye tuna stocks in the EPO. While this effort shows signs of working, the stocks and the measure needs more time. Both ISSF and WWF are urging members of the IATTC to continue the current conservation measure as it is for another year, until January 2015. But because there are some uncertainties in the stock assessments to begin with, members should direct IATTC scientific staff to develop management advice that is robust to address uncertainties for 2015 and beyond and be prepared to implement stronger measures in 2015.

Pacific Bluefin tuna is another matter. The last assessment and projections reiterate that the stock is highly depleted, that fishing mortality exceeds all reasonable proxies for Fmsy and that current management measures adopted by WCPFC and IATTC are insufficient to stop overfishing and allow the stock to rebuild. ISSF and WWF strongly support the staff recommendation that commercial catches of Pacific bluefin in the EPO in 2014 be limited below 3,154t, which was the estimated commercial catch in 2013, and that the non-commercial catches in 2014 be limited below 221t.

HCRs and reference points

With the right management, overfishing should never be a problem to begin with. All of the region’s tuna stocks would benefit from well-defined reference points and pre-determined harvest control rules (HCRs). The idea behind this approach is simple – scientists use the most recently available data to determine how much tuna can be fished from each stock, and at what point that fishing needs to slow down. Fishing nations can use those reference points to determine what must happen automatically if a stock reaches its limit point. Pre-agreed upon measures allow for immediate implementation. Since RFMOs only meet once a year and sometimes politics prevents or delays agreement on necessary actions, a trigger to adjust the management system ensures stocks never reach an overfished state.

We are urging the Commission to establish interim EPO species-specific target and limit reference points this year. In addition, we urge the Commission to adopt the Staff recommendation for a HCR, which aims to prevent overfishing and rebuild stocks when they become depleted. Further, because we recognize that uncertainties exist, we ask that in 2015 this HCR and interim reference points be tested for robustness to the main uncertainties in the assessment, such as the stock- recruitment relationship.


The eastern Pacific region is not immune to the issue of overcapacity. While IATTC is a step ahead of all tuna RFMOs by having a closed vessel registry, meaning no new vessels can be added to the region, this is only a beginning. Member nations must now work toward ultimately reducing the number of vessels authorized to fish for tuna in the eastern Pacific. We congratulate the IATTC for holding the Technical Experts Workshop on the Capacity of the Tuna fishing Fleet this year. ISSF and WWF strongly support the Workshop recommendations for strengthening the 2005 Plan for the Regional Management of Fishing Capacity and urges members to put them into action.

This framework should also account for the transfer of capacity – which can take various forms beyond vessels – from developed fishing nations to developing coastal nations. Recently, ISSF – with participation by WWF, RFMO Secretariats, vessel operators, the tuna processing industry, developing and developed States, academia, the FAO and World Bank and others – hosted a workshop to start a dialogue among stakeholders on this issue. The workshop report can be accessed here:; we believe the workshop outcomes can contribute to progressing capacity management in the tuna RFMOs.

In the meantime, IATTC members can have an immediate impact by mandating the use of unique vessel identifiers, like IMO numbers, for all vessels on its registry. These numbers follow a vessel from region to region, help weed out IUU fishing and allow for an accurate count of the number of vessels authorized to fish for tuna. WWF and ISSF urge the IATTC to follow the lead of IOTC, ICCAT and WCPFC and require IMO numbers for all vessels on the IATTC Regional Vessel Register.

FAD management

We recognize the substantial progress made by IATTC in adopting Resolution C-13-04 regarding FAD management and reporting. But this is just the first step. ISSF and WWF urge members to provide these data starting 1 January 2015, as called for in the Resolution, as well as detailed analysis of FAD usage patterns and catch per effort analysis by their fleets. We also support the Staff recommendation for the provision of detailed satellite buoy information for scientific purposes, and urge the Commission to adopt a marking scheme for identifying individual FADs.

Sharks and bycatch

In the area of sharks and bycatch, the IATTC could make some important progress. Sharks are in trouble around the globe, and the EPO is no exception. We urge the IATTC to adopt the proposals tabled by the European Union prohibiting the retention of silky sharks and requiring that sharks be landed with fins naturally attached. We also support the recommended best handling practices for mobulid rays.  Longliners should also be using mitigation measures to protect threatened seabirds, something three other tuna RFMOs have already required. We’re also looking for the IATTC to report back its progress on sea turtle bycatch prevention as outlined in FAO Guidelines.

IUU, RFMO compliance and transparency

If the IATTC adopted all of these measures, it would only be one half of the equation for effective fisheries management, which demands measures grounded in science, effectively enforced and complied with by all nations. That’s why we are supporting the proposals of the European Union on port State measures and reforming the IATTC Vessel Monitoring System. These monitoring, control and surveillance (MCS) measures help to combat IUU activities on the water, prevent IUU catch from getting to markets, and ensure that all nations are playing by the same rules.

The bottom line is that regular review of performance and compliance, both at the RFMO and member levels, makes all of this come together. To date, IATTC members have failed to agree on terms for an RFMO performance review. Progress in this regard must happen immediately. The IATTC is the only tuna RFMO to have not completed a performance review to date, while other RFMOs are already preparing for a second review.

The IATTC must also make an effort to improve transparency surrounding the review of compliance of members and cooperating non-members with their obligations. We were disappointed that the 2013 Report of the Review Committee was not available until early 2014 and does not include a summary of each Member’s compliance information, as we understood was the agreement reached in Veracruz last year. We urge the IATTC to increase the transparency of its compliance assessment process through the adoption of amendments to C-11-07 (i.e., make public the responses from members to areas of identified non-compliance) and include in the Review Committee report details of each Member and CNM’s areas of non-compliance, and its recommendations to address such non-compliance.

Fishing nations and coastal States alike benefit from these fisheries. As a result, they have the responsibility to cooperate and act in the collective interest and the power to take action. WWF and ISSF are hoping for action next week in Peru, and we’re looking forward to reporting back on some substantial progress. We will continue to working cooperatively with all IATTC delegations during the week’s meetings to achieve positive results for the tunas and ecosystems of the eastern Pacific Ocean. Why? Because fish matter.


You can download the 2014 ISSF IATTC position statement here: