15 April 2015

Indian Ocean fishing nations are getting ready to meet for the 19th session of the Commission this April in Busan, Korea, and our coalition has a list of things we would like to see member nations accomplish. You can download our position statement here or you can use this page filled with interactive links to learn more about the issues that matter most.

We have collected a library of videos, reports and blogs to help educate on the challenges and opportunities facing our global tuna resources and the greater marine ecosystem. So sit back and click your way through our priorities for Indian Ocean tuna fisheries.

Global Issues

Harvest Control Rules (HCRs) and Reference Points.  HCRs are a set of well-defined management actions to be taken in response to changes in stock status with respect to target and limit reference points.  Unless there is a pre-agreed upon action plan for avoiding overfishing or for rebuilding an overfished stock, long negotiations lead to delayed action or inaction.  The adoption of HCRs is a key aspect of modern fisheries management, and is also a requirement of several eco-label certification programs.

Click here to read a blog that outlines harvest strategy progress made last yearClick here to watch a video about HCRs  |  Click here to read a blog about the importance of HCRs   |   Click here to download a report on HCRs

ISSF applauds progress made via Resolution 13-10 regarding Interim Biological Reference Points and a Decision Framework, which, in combination with Resolution 12-01 on Implementation of the Precautionary Approach, provides guidance for the Scientific Committee in structuring Management Strategy Evaluations (MSE) of management approaches consistent with the Objectives of the Commission.  ISSF fully endorses the recommendations of the IOTC Scientific Committee to adopt reference points, particularly those based on biomass depletion models in the absence of sufficient data for MSY based reference points. ISSF urges IOTC’s Scientific Committee to take the necessary actions in Busan to fully support the recommendations from ongoing IOTC workshops promoting dialogue among scientists, managers and stakeholders related to the formulation of management objectives.

Closed Vessel Registries and Management of Fleet Capacity.  Experts agree that there is overcapacity in the global tuna fleets.  Fishing fleet overcapacity increases pressure to weaken management measures and eventually leads to stock overexploitation.  The first step towards managing capacity is to establish limited entry via a comprehensive closed vessel registry with an eye towards ultimately reducing the number of fishing vessels to an appropriate level.

Given the importance of a mechanism to transfer capacity from developed to developing countries to any regional capacity management scheme, ISSF hosted a Workshop in March 2014 to start a dialogue among stakeholders on this issue.  ISSF hopes this Workshop and dialog will contribute to progressing capacity management in the tuna RFMOs.

Click here for ISSF’s Capacity Transfer Workshop Report  |  Click here to watch a video on capacity   |  Click here to learn about ISSF’s capacity resolution

ISSF applauds IOTC Resolution 13/07 requiring all vessels greater than 24 m to have IMO numbers by 2015.  ISSF encourages the IOTC to consider the outcomes of the 2014 ISSF Workshop on the Transfer of Capacity from developed to developing countries in any regional capacity management scheme.

Fish Aggregating Device (FAD) Management. Of the total tropical tuna catch by the purse seine fishery, sets on floating objects, including FADs, account for more than half total global landings. The time is ripe for a concerted global effort to gather and report to RFMOs data on FADs (e.g., via logbooks) in order to better monitor FAD usage and to establish a sound basis for their management in every ocean region.

Click here for a video on managing floating objects | Click here for an infographic on FADs

ISSF applauds those IOTC fleets that have been providing FAD data consistent with the Resolution 13-08 regarding FAD management and reporting.  Although data collection and reporting is mandated by 13-08, some CPCs have yet to implement and report on FAD monitoring.  ISSF urges the Commission to encourage CPCs to provide these data and also detailed analysis of FAD usage patterns and catch per effort analysis by the fleets operating in the Indian Ocean. 

In addition to improving FAD management, ISSF strongly supports the provisions in Resolution 13-08 that require that gradually from 2014 all FAD-directed purse seine fisheries should change to using only non-entangling FADs based on the principles outlined in Resolution. This is a critical step in the reduction of shark mortality in the Indian Ocean.

Click here for ISSF’s Guide to Non-entangling FADs

ISSF strongly supports the recommendation from the IOTC SC (SC17.23) and calls on the commission to establish a working group on FADs to provide advice on the future management of both anchored and drifting FADs.

IOTC Conservation & Management Measures

Tuna Stocks. The Indian Ocean stocks of bigeye, yellowfin and skipjack are not likely overfished and are not likely experiencing overfishing, and therefore no immediate management measures are currently needed for these stocks.  However, catches of the albacore stock have increased substantially since 2007, particularly by longliners.  If the current catch level is maintained, overfishing is likely to take place and the biomass is likely fall below MSY.

In 2014, IOTC SC advised that other IO stocks, including swordfish, marlins and longtail tuna, all require management action be taken to ensure their long term sustainability.  ISSF urges the IOTC to adopt measures to prevent overfishing of all species, such as reducing catches by at least 20% from the current level.

Dive into the details about the current state of tuna stocks in the Indian Ocean & around the world!

Sharks. The data on sharks in the Indian Ocean is extremely limited, preventing accurate assessments of the status of the region’s sharks.  However even with the limited data that is available, it is clear that the abundance of some species is declining.  ISSF strongly endorses the SC recommendations that the Commission A) develop mechanisms to encourage CPCs to comply with their data reporting requirement, and B) adopt measures to limit fishing mortality on sharks.

Click here to watch a video about our efforts to save 500,000 sharks in the Indian Ocean | Click here to review best practices for shark handling in the ISSF Purse Seine Skipper Guidebook

ISSF urges the Commission to take further steps to enforce the existing Resolution on shark finning through the Compliance Committee, and strengthen that measure by requiring that all sharks be landed with fins naturally attached.

Purse Seine Observer Coverage. Comprehensive observer coverage on purse seine vessels is a critical component of sustainable fisheries monitoring and management for tropical tunas.  The WCPFC and the IATTC have already implemented 100% coverage, and ICCAT has mandated it for the Gulf of Guinea FAD closure.  It is time for the IOTC to do the same.  ISSF again strongly urges the adoption of 100% observer coverage on large-scale tropical tuna purse seine fleets this year. Where human onboard observers are not possible for certain fleets or vessel sizes, the Commission should immediately explore electronic monitoring systems and establish policies and guidelines for their use.

Click here for a review of observer programs in purse seine vessels and related best practices | Click here to read a blog about observers from Monterey Bay Aquarium, ISSF and WWF

Click here to watch a series of videos about electronic monitoring  |  Click here to download electronic monitoring best practices

Gillnet Fisheries. Gillnet fisheries account for a substantial amount of tuna catches in the Indian Ocean, some of which use prohibited large-scale pelagic driftnets, made illegal in 1992. The SC has noted that these fisheries have a substantial impact on marine ecosystems. They are also inadequately sampled and monitored. ISSF urges the IOTC to follow the SC, as a matter of priority, collect and report data as mandated by the IOTC Resolutions 10/02 and 13/03 for all gillnet fleets to enable them to be assessed and incorporated into IO stock assessments, and consider freezing catch and effort by gillnet fisheries until sufficient information has been gathered to assess their impact.

Click here to read a report on gillnet fishing in the Indian Ocean 

Data Gaps. Developing the most effective and robust conservation and management of tuna stocks requires access to the most comprehensive information available on fishing activity – including capacity, fishing effort and catch.  ISSF is concerned that the level of reporting by IOTC members is very uneven. In 2014, only 39% of the required datasets were provided by CPCs.  Significant improvements must be made, especially for the region’s gillnet, artisanal and semi-industrial tuna fisheries.  IOTC needs to diligently address these data gaps.

Compliance. The IOTC already has one of the most transparent compliance processes among the five tuna RFMOs, improvements are still needed to bolster its compliance assessment process ad monitoring, control and surveillance tools.  However, it is time for IOTC Members to take the next step and set clear milestones for improvement, and begin discussing how the Commission will respond to repeated and significant instances of non-compliance. IOTC should develop a regional satellite-based vessel monitoring system because for many fleets implementation of and compliance with the existing VMS resolution is very low and it is not an effective MCS tool. Clear IUU listings must be made a priority so that the process is in line with best practices.

Click here to download a survey of compliance with RFMO obligations and measures  |  Click here to read a blog on defining substantial compliance in RFMOs

Transshipment.  ISSF notes with concern the areas of non-compliance with the IOTC transshipment program identified during the Compliance Committee in 2014.  In addition, ISSF notes that the current drafting of Resolution 14-06 lacks a clear definition of large-scale tuna longline vessels (LSTLVs), but the term “large scale” vessels in other Resolutions are well defined. This could result in implementation loopholes that would render the resolution useless. Further, flag states are not currently required to report annually to the Secretariat the LSTLVs that they have granted prior authorization to transship at sea. If not properly monitored, at-sea transshipments can create a fertile environment for IUU fishing activities to go undetected.

ISSF urges the IOTC to make explicit the definition of LSTLFVs to ensure that longline transshipments are properly monitored by the Resolution. ISSF also encourages the IOTC consider expanding their transshipment measure to include the reporting of in-port transshipment by all vessels, as well as a requirement for the submission of transshipment declarations from all purse seine vessels.

In sum, ISSF urges the IOTC Commission to review the scope and implementation of its transshipment measure in order to address potential gaps in its effectiveness and improve compliance by all CPCs with its provisions.

Click here for a review of transshipment measures in RFMOs and ways to improve such measures