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Commercial Fishing



Indian Ocean Tuna Commission fails to effectively manage tunas. The Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) has once again failed to reach a suitable compromise to prevent overfishing of two of its key stocks, yellowfin and skipjack tunas. Despite signals from retailers and members of the Global Tuna Alliance (such as Tesco), that they would cease sourcing Indian Ocean tunas if no progress was made, IOTC could not come to a positive result.

While agreement to reduce catch on yellowfin was reached, it is unlikely to be sufficient to reduce catch levels below the recommended scientific limit of 403,000 metric tons while providing a sufficient buffer to account for errors in catch reporting or noncompliance. This is exacerbated by formal objections by some member States, which would then tie them only to the previous management resolution, which allows for higher levels of catch, resulting in continued overfishing of the stock.

In addition to lack of progress on yellowfin, the Commission also failed to address overfishing of the skipjack tuna total allowable catch (TAC). This catch level, which was determined by an agreed-upon harvest control rule, has been exceeded every year since its inception in 2018, and the failure by Commission members to adequately enforce the catch limit suggests overfishing of this limit will continue unabated.

Glen Holmes, an officer for The Pew Charitable Trusts’ international fisheries project said:

“The Indian Ocean Tuna Commission’s inability to come to agreement on a sufficient reduction in yellowfin tuna catch levels isn’t new, but it is particularly disappointing that the Commission failed again this year, given its market is now at stake. The Commission has delayed taking the necessary steps to rebuild this stock for several years. Now, with five parties objecting to the new measure and fishing essentially allowed to continue at previous levels, the change on the water is likely to be negligible – just a 1% difference in total catch compared to 2019.

“After several years of Commission meetings, including a special session just to discuss yellowfin, IOTC is in a precarious position, and remains consumed by annual quota negotiations that leave it unable to address many other areas of management that require attention.

“IOTC must avoid this situation in the future and implement modern management procedures that require governments to commit to long-term objectives and science-based actions for these valuable stocks. In the meantime, seafood buyers must follow through on their commitment to take market action in response to IOTC’s continued mismanagement.”

Photo credit: Global Tuna Alliance