By Claire van der Geest and Wetjens Dimmlich
May 9, 2016
The 20th Session of the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission will take place from 23-27 May 2016 in La Reunion, France. Claire van der Geest leads ISSF’s policy engagement in the IOTC and Wetjens Dimmlich is the Indian Ocean Tuna Programme Manager at World Wide Fund For Nature (WWF).
The Key Issues
In 2016 the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) and its stakeholders are keenly focused on the adoption of a skipjack Harvest Strategy and addressing yellowfin overfishing in accordance with the scientific advice – which has recommended a 20% reduction in catches from 2014 levels – so that the stock rebuilds to sustainable biomass levels. In addition, there is a proposal to manage neritic tuna species such as longtail tuna, a species that is critical to regional food security and has been considered subject to overfishing for two consecutive years.
But adopting measures implementing harvest strategies and reducing the catch of tuna stocks to sustainable levels is just one side of the fisheries management coin. Focused consideration on the implementation of robust monitoring, control and surveillance (MCS) measures to support modern, science-based fisheries management measures such as input (e.g., time/area closures) or output (e.g., catch/effort quotas) controls is equally essential. And it is necessary to ensure that such measures are transparently complied with, enforced and monitored by both flag States and coastal States.
Fundamental on-the-water MCS tools include vessel monitoring systems (VMS), regional observer programs that provide data for compliance purposes, port State measures and a high seas boarding and inspection scheme. These tools work together to enable the detection of non-compliance by vessels engaged in fishing activities, including transhipping and support vessels. Additionally, the provision of annual statistical data by flag States on catch, effort, trade and implementation of IOTC resolutions are an important secondary set of MCS tools. These tools support stock assessments and provide essential information that can further verify implementation of the adopted conservation and management measures.
Effective fisheries management requires the implementation of management controls in concert with MCS tools to enable enforcement and detection of non-compliance. In doing so there is greater probability and certainty that the management regime will be effective in achieving its objective of securing the long-term sustainability of the regional valuable fishery resources.
All Parties must work to implement a comprehensive management regime for all species under the IOTC mandate, and this must include the adoption and implementation of Harvest Strategies and an integrated regional MCS program that is modern and consistent with best practice. We urge the Commission to adopt and implement the recommendations from the IOTC Scientific Committee and Second Performance Review Panel.
IOTC Members: What we need from you
We urge all IOTC members to adopt management measures and harvest strategies, consistent with scientific advice, for all gears used in the region and for all tuna species. We especially urge the Commission to adopt measures to reduce the catches of yellowfin tuna and rebuild the stock in accordance with the scientific advice. The Commission must also work towards the development of a robust harvest strategy for yellowfin, which includes harvest control rules and reference points, informed by MSE.
In relation to MCS measures, ISSF and WWF urge the Commission to adopt such measures consistent with best practices: 100% observer coverage on large-scale purse seine vessels; amendments to the IUU vessel list resolution; continued development of the high seas boarding and inspection regimes and further amendments to strengthen the IOTC VMS. We recommend the Commission seek external advice regarding how best to integrate its current MCS tools and what additional tools may be required to ensure the long-term sustainability of the resources, as recommended by the Second Performance Review Panel.
Furthermore, we encourage the exploration of new and emerging technologies to support modern and effective fisheries management. To support this, ISSF will host an IOTC side event during the lunch break on May 23 to provide information on electronic monitoring and electronic reporting – how it is being used regionally and in other oceans and highlighting the importance of these technologies for both science and combatting IUU.
Other Issues in Our Sights
There are many other important issues on the agenda for the Commission when it meets in May: FAD management and data collection; data collection from gillnet fleets and arresting the reported use of large-scale driftnets; shark conservation and management; reforming the IOTC transshipment measure, and improving data collection and reporting.
ISSF and WWF stand ready to work with all IOTC members in La Reunion to ensure the long-term conservation and management of the marine resources in the Indian Ocean upon which so many depend. Now is the time to reset the compass and chart a course for tuna sustainability that meaningfully addresses overfishing, overcapacity, IUU activities, poor data reporting and ineffective MCS tools.