A set of proposals to be tabled at the 101st Session of the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC) to secure albacore tuna stocks and improve transparency will be watched with interest by major seafood market players.
The Global Tuna Alliance (GTA) has welcomed two proposals submitted to the 101st Session of the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC) which would advance science-based, sustainable management measures for albacore tuna stocks in the Eastern Pacific.
Whether these proposals are adopted at the meeting taking place between 7-11th August remains to be seen, with GTA Partners warning that a lack of progress could have ramifications for their approach to sourcing in the region.
Albacore tuna in the Pacific Ocean is split into two separate stocks. North Pacific (NP) albacore and South Pacific (SP) albacore are managed by two Regional Fisheries Management Organisations. IATTC, which manages stocks in the Eastern Pacific Ocean, and the Western-Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC). As shared stocks, the effectiveness of management measures is dependent to an extent on both Commissions working in tandem.
A harvest strategy is already in place for the northern stock with progress made at last year’s IATTC meeting. But a crucial element of a harvest strategy – harvest control rules (HCRs) setting predetermined catch or fishing effort limits that are based on the status of a stock – remains absent from this strategy. In early July, the WCPFC northern committee amended their own NP albacore harvest strategy to include HCRs. Ahead of the upcoming August meeting, Canada, Japan and the US have tabled a proposal to IATTC to bring its harvest strategy in line with WCPFC.
While WCPFC has fishing controls in place for the SP albacore fishery, this currently does not extend to the IATTC Convention Area outside the overlapping region. A proposal by Ecuador to IATTC seeks to prevent producing countries from increasing the number of active longline vessels fishing for SP albacore to achieve compatibility with WCPFC.
‘You can think of the situation like a door with two locks. While WCPFC has one key, it also needs IATTC to turn its own key to unlock the measures we need for effective, sustainable management of Pacific albacore stocks,’ said The GTA’s Director of Outreach and Engagement, Albert Arthur.
As part of the campaign ahead of IATTC, the GTA organised a roundtable discussion between its Partners and IATTC delegates, which took place on the 27th July. This was an opportunity for delegates to hear directly from the market. Of IATTC’s 21 member states, 30% sent delegates to attend, up from 15% the year before.
A number of seafood companies reiterated their commitment to providing their customers with sustainably sourced products.
‘We firmly believe that by supporting sustainable fishing practices, we play a critical role in safeguarding the health of our oceans and preserving marine biodiversity for generations to come,’ said Stacy Shultz, Director of Marketing & Sustainability Coordinator at Fortune Fish & Gourmet.
‘Our customers trust us to provide them with the best of the best seafood products. By offering sustainable tuna options, we can satisfy our customers’ demands for environmentally conscious products while ensuring the long-term viability of these tuna stocks.’
‘The uptick shows that decision-makers are starting to take note of the market’s views. It’s important for delegations – especially those from producing countries – to listen, as failing to do so could have detrimental consequences if the supply chain decided to withdraw their sourcing from the area,’ Albert Arthur commented.
‘Along with its albacore-oriented campaign, the GTA has published a position statement which also covers the management and design of Fish Aggregating Devices (FADs) and measures to improve the transparency of the industry such as adopting minimum standards for an electronic monitoring program and adopting a 100% observer coverage requirement by 2024.
‘Improving the transparency of tuna fisheries in the Eastern Pacific Ocean was the central focus of our campaign last year. However, opposition by a group of Asian countries frustrated attempts at getting key measures passed. We’re hoping that they get behind Ecuador’s plan to require human observers or electronic monitoring onboard all longline vessels 20 metres or longer by 2027,’ Albert Arthur said.
‘This would represent a great leap toward the GTA’s objective of ending illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing. This scourge results in human rights abuse at-sea and inaccurate data on catches, which in turn affects our ability to manage stocks sustainably. Without full transparency in the region, our Partners may look elsewhere for their tuna.’
The GTA have published a document fully responding to the proposals on the table at IATTC this year.