What could become a groundbreaking move as RFMOs align on stock management became a strong prospect at the 101st Session of the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC) – while Asian nations were again successful in kicking into the long grass a motion to increase observer coverage on tuna longliners.
The positive outcome is that a proposal aimed at advancing the responsible management of the North Pacific (NP) albacore stock has led to the adoption of an amendment to the NP albacore harvest strategy, which in turn sets the stage for an unprecedented Pacific-wide harvest strategy – if the Western-Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) signs off on a similar proposal at its December meeting
The adoption of a Management Strategy Evaluation (MSE) last year for NP albacore which enabled scientists to simulate the effectiveness of various fishing controls, facilitated the adoption of harvest control rules (HCRs) this time around. HCRs set predetermined catch or fishing effort limits. The joint proposal from Canada, Japan and the United States to include HCRs in the harvest strategy passed unanimously on Wednesday.
The spotlight will now be focused on WCPFC’s meeting in December. Earlier this year, the WCPFC’s northern committee produced an amendment to their own NP albacore harvest strategy which included HCRs. If adopted in December by the Commission, the two Regional Fisheries Management Organizations (RFMOs) will have aligned harvest strategies for the very first time.
‘This joined up approach that we’re seeing from these two RFMOs is exciting. It opens the door to further collaboration to ensure the maximum environmental performance of tuna fisheries, not just in the east or the west, but across the entirety of the Pacific Ocean,’ said Albert Arthur, the Global Tuna Alliance’s director of outreach and engagement.
‘The North Pacific albacore resolution will surely turn the heads of many seafood retailers and suppliers who will feel increasingly confident sourcing their tuna from a region demonstrating their commitment to the responsible management and conservation of key stocks.’
Despite of progress on NP albacore, the IATTC failed to implement fishing controls across the whole of the Pacific for the South Pacific (SP) albacore stock, when a proposal by Ecuador to prevent producing countries increasing the number of active longline vessels was withdrawn.
‘It is a little bit of a case of two steps forward and one step back for albacore tuna in the Pacific with this outcome. While the proposal would have been a sound starting point from which to develop a harvest strategy for the SP albacore stock, the GTA are not too concerned, with the overall trajectory continuing in the right direction,’ Albert Arthur commented.
In addition to measures for albacore, the GTA came away from the meeting impressed by a swathe of other measures adopted by IATTC, many of which aligned with its own position statement.
‘It was great to see collaboration from a number of nations on a resolution which sets a timeline for implementing biodegradable FADs as well as prohibiting the use of mesh and entangling materials which causes harm to the marine environment. Resolutions on climate change and the enhanced data collection and conservation of silky sharks similarly shows a commitment not just to the conservation of tuna stocks but to the whole ocean ecosystem in which they exist,’ Albert Arthur said, but commented that there is disappointment that Ecuador’s proposal to expand observer coverage on longline vessels over 20 meters 5% to 100% by 2027 failed, for a second year running.
‘We were disappointed by the continued opposition from a small group of Asian countries to improve observer coverage onboard longline vessels,’ Albert Arthur said.
‘Our partners are committed to ensuring their supply chains are transparent, avoiding seafood products from IUU fishing. Without comprehensive observer coverage making sure that conservation measures are enforced, they may choose to source their tuna elsewhere.’