As a migratory fish species, tuna can travel thousands of miles between countries and across the open ocean, straddling both the exclusive economic zones as well as the areas beyond national jurisdiction (ABNJ).
Approximately seven million tonnes of tuna and tuna-like species are landed yearly, and there are over 96 countries involved in the conservation and management of tuna. With this strong demand, combined with overcapacity of fishing fleets, sustainable management is critically important.
To address this need, the Common Oceans ABNJ Tuna Project, funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and implemented by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), teamed up with World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), Ocean Outcomes (O2) and the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation (ISSF), to conduct a series of training workshops with the support of scientists from various institutions involved in the tuna Regional Fisheries Management Organizations (RFMOs).
The 13 workshops were designed for fisheries managers, scientists and tuna industry representatives from developing countries, to assist them with developing sustainable management strategies in collaboration with four tuna RFMOs.
‘Tuna fisheries have a significant biological, economic and cultural value, and the stocks need to be sustainably managed using a precautionary approach,’ said Alejandro Anganuzzi, Global Coordinator of the Common Oceans ABNJ Tuna Project.
‘Finding ways to promote this approach and the adoption of harvest strategies for all major tuna stocks, have been a top priority for us and the outcomes of the MSE workshops exceeded our expectations. Bringing these people together, to exchange experiences and receive hands-on training, have prepared them to fully engage in decision-making processes that reinforces the sustainability of their fisheries.’
The initial round of workshops were carried out from 2014 to 2018. Through theoretical sessions explaining the principles of sustainable fisheries management, combined with hands-on exercises and simulation tools explaining the use of management strategy evaluation (MSE) – a process that allows stakeholders to assess the effectiveness of different management procedures – to guide the adoption of harvest strategies.
This round had a total eight workshops, 366 participants, 66 of whom were from tuna RFMO member countries, participating territory or cooperating non-member States, as well as individuals from the tuna RFMO Secretariats, FAO representatives, scientific and tuna management experts, industry and NGOs.
Building on the success from the first round, five additional national workshops were developed for tuna fishing nations in the Eastern Pacific Ocean: Panama, Ecuador, the USA, Mexico, and Colombia, in 2019.
Across these countries, 111 participants, including scientists, company vessel operators, and representatives from government ministries and civil society organisations met to learn about the new concepts and scenarios in modern fishing management that are discussed in the high-level negotiations of the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC).
These workshops provided the space for all stakeholders to come together – many for the first time – to participate in the scientific MSE process. With this collaboration, the scientific staff of the IATTC will conduct modelling exercises to develop more effective management measures. Eventually, the results of will contribute to new management recommendations by the IATTC, including proposed harvest control rules to determine annual catch.