Future remains uncertain for bluefin tuna and fishery observers in the Eastern Pacific
Pablo Guerrero, WWF’s Eastern Pacific Ocean tuna coordinator said:
“The IATTC’s rebuilding plan is getting stronger, and that is an important part of this process, but the few nations that have vessels on the water fishing for bluefin continue to deadlock and prevent more robust and immediate action. These delaying tactics are even much more damaging in the Western and Central Pacific where the science is clear that catches must be brought in line with the population’s ability to reproduce.”
“WWF will continue to push for action in the Eastern Pacific, but in the near-term we must focus our attention on the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission meeting in December. If the governments that make up these management bodies continue to fail to agree on a rigorous Pacific-wide rebuilding and management plan, we believe the only way to end overfishing and to provide adequate hope for a future recovery of the stock is suspending the commercial fisheries of the Pacific bluefin tuna”.
While Commission members took limited action on bluefin, they failed to agree on any measures that would protect other ecologically and commercially important tuna species.
“WWF is very disappointed by the failure of the IATTC to approve conservation measures for the range of Eastern Pacific tropical tunas. A number of delegations worked very hard to find solutions and reach common ground and we share their disappointment. Like WWF, such delegations are concerned about the continual increase in purse seine fleet capacity and the associated mortality of yellowfin and bigeye tunas”.
Pablo Guerrero said: “The scientific staff of the IATTC recommended an 87-day purse seine closure to account for the increase in fleet capacity and we are now in a situation where even the previous, weaker, conservation measure of 62 days has not been approved for the 2017 fishing season. That means there will be no conservation measures for tropical tunas at the beginning of the upcoming fishing season to protect these heavily fished species, unless countries find an agreement in a meeting that will be held in early February to discuss this matter again. Our market partners and other members of the sustainable seafood movement are likely to share concerns about this serious setback.”
Commission members did not agree on critical safety improvements for fishery observers, who are vulnerable to assault, obstruction, and intimidation while on vessels at sea. WWF has called on the IATTC and national observer programs to develop emergency action plans, as well as equip observers with a satellite communication device and waterproof lifesaving beacon during each trip.
“This is a matter of survival for the 500 observers working on board tuna vessels in the Eastern Pacific. The authorities in charge of observer programs have seemingly abandoned their responsibility to ensure that these workers operate in a safe environment with the tools necessary to maintain that on-the-job security. We cannot afford risking another tragedy before governments summon the courage to take action”, added Pablo Guerrero from WWF.
Note to editors
 The Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC) is responsible for the conservation and management of tuna and other marine resources in the Eastern Pacific Ocean. The members of the IATTC are: Belize, Canada, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, European Union, France, Guatemala, Japan, Kiribati, Korea, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, ChineseTaipei, United States, Vanuatu, Venezuela.
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