At its 26th session, the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) has adopted a procedure that will enable a quota to be set for bigeye tuna in 2024, under a proposal from Australia that was supported by the EU and other countries.
According to Europêche, this is a milestone in the IOTC’s history, demonstrating that RFMOs can apply modern harvest strategies for tropical tuna species based on the best science. IOTC is also applying measures to improve the observer coverage, tighten monitoring and control rules on at-sea and in-port tuna transhipments – and is the first RFMO to adopt a Resolution on Climate Change.
Despite positive progress on bigeye tuna, this has not been matched in efforts to manage other key species, as despite pressure applied by the European Union and the Seychelles, objecting parties – Oman, India, Indonesia, Iran, Madagascar and Somalia, whose catches represent 40% of the IOTC yellowfin catches – failed to support these efforts and continue to refuse to apply the reductions imposed by the 2021 management plan.
The IOTC session also failed to reach consensus on skipjack tuna.
‘The European Union and Maldives had both proposed to limit the catches of skipjack to comply with the Harvest Control Rule adopted in 2021,’ said Europêche Tuna Group director Anne-France Mattlet following the session.
‘While the EU made a step forward, increasing catch limitations on the main harvesters but alleviating the burden on least developed countries, Maldives made a step backward, proposing even more drastic reductions solely addressed to the EU fleet to relieve all other countries of any effort, including the eight other main harvesters. Too many contracting parties (CPCs) were unwilling to accept any limitation.’
EU proposals on fishing aggregated devices (FADs) would have been the most ambitious ever adopted within the IOTC, allowing a better scientific analysis of the data transmitted by the buoys but consensus was also not reached on this – although debate on these key issues is expected to be maintained during intersession meetings. A further major proposal to improve monitoring and control systems was also shot down as EU proposals to establish an inspection scheme in the high seas and to improve mandatory statistical reporting requirements were firmly rejected.
‘We are convinced that the European Union and Seychelles’ teams will keep on proposing improvements on monitoring, control and surveillance issues and find a way to get support from other CPCs to address these major issues,’ Anne-France Mattlet said.