Interview with Pablo Guerrero, Eastern Pacific Ocean Tuna Coordinator, WWF’s Smart Fishing Initiative, on the upcoming challenges at the meeting of the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC) in Guayaquil, Ecuador, from 29 June- 3 July 2015, and WWFs´demands and recommendations.
How serious is the situation of the Pacific bluefin tuna?
The situation is very serious. Technical reports from the International Scientific Committee (ISC) and the scientific staff of the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC) indicate that the bluefin tuna in the North Pacific is in very poor condition. The ISC confirmed that overfishing is occurring, the population is being heavily overfished, and the spawning biomass has declined by up to 96%. Scientists say there is only one reproductive cohort which is sustaining the stock and currently approaching the end of its life cycle. This last point is critically important, as it endangers recruitment and therefore the viability of the fishery.
WWF asked the IATTC to follow the advice of the ISC and agree on a catch limit of 2,750 metric tons to be consistent with its recommendation for a 50% catch reduction. We also asked for the adoption of a long-term recovery plan, and, in addition, a catch documentation system to ensure transparent monitoring and control of the catches.
In a nutshell, can you recall what relevant decisions came out of of the IATTC meeting in October last year?
The most important decision has been the adoption of a resolution on the management and conservation for the Pacific Bluefin tuna. The IATTC decided to establish a catch quota of 6600 tons of Pacific bluefin tuna for commercial catches spread over the next two years 2015/2016 (approximately 3300 tons for each year or a 45 per cent reduction, closely approaching conservation recommendations made by the scientific staff of the IATTC, i.e., 3154 tons for all fisheries). Furthermore, no country is allowed to exceed 3500 tons of catches in 2015, and fishing nations have to establish a catch documentation system.
WWF strongly support this recommended catch limit for Pacific bluefin as adopted by the Commision. We also strongly encourage to closely monitor fisheries and catch as well as the complete a revised stock assessment for Pacific bluefin in early 2016. In addition, we urge the IATTC, and also the Western Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC), to collaborate in the management of Pacific Bluefin tuna through the conservation of both juvenile and adult fish stocks.
What are the key issues for debate at this upcoming meeting?
Main issues to be tackled at this meeting include:
- harvest control rules (HCR), a set of well-defined management measures to be taken in response to changes in stock status with respect to target and limit reference points;
- the management of fleet capacity and Fish Aggregating Devices (FADs), and
- shark conservation measures.
What are WWF´s demands and recommendations to the IATTC?
At its meeting last year, the IATTC adopted interim limits and reference points, and also interim harvest control rules (HCR). These are very good first steps, however it is crucial for the Commission to adopt a truly modern fisheries management plan that allows a more responsibly management of tuna fisheries.
Our recommendation is to not allow any further increase in fleet capacity. Even more so, we urge Member States to work towards the reduction of the number of tuna vessels that are authorized to fish in the Eastern Pacific Ocean.
We also call on all IATTC members to provide the scientific staff of the Commision with additional data on movements of FADS and to implement the use of non-entangling FAD´s designed to reduce shark mortality.
Finally, WWF urges the IATTC to adopt the proposals tabled by member state Costa Rica which requires that sharks be landed with their fins still attached. We support the recommended best-handling practices for mobulid rays and also urge the Commission to adopt the 2015 scientific staff´s precautionary recommendations to conserve silky sharks.