Uncertainty after the annual meeting of the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC)

Posted on 03 September 2021

WWF called on members of the IATTC at the body’s 98th Annual Meeting to agree to a multi-year conservation plan for tropical tunas that would reduce mortality of bigeye and yellowfin tunas. Despite a continuous increase in fishing capacity in the Eastern Pacific Ocean and the degradation of resources, especially bigeye, the Commission still did not reach an agreement on science-based conservation measures. Discussions will resume in the second part of meeting 98, scheduled to take place next October.
WWF is disappointed by the lack of agreement and delay, noting it could have serious consequences for the ongoing Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification processes of several tuna fisheries in the region. Without IATTC action, the necessary requirements will not be met, and WWF believes the fisheries would not be eligible for MSC certification.
The tuna resources of the Eastern Pacific are the support of a multibillion-dollar industry that supports the livelihoods of tens of thousands of people and contributes to the economic growth and social development of the region. For this reason, it is essential that the IATTC member countries reach an agreement in October to maintain and expand their commitment to responsible management to achieve sustainable fisheries.
WWF notes the leadership of countries such as the United States and Ecuador, which helped resolve differences and work toward a proposal that reflects elements of the various tuna conservation proposals that were presented. El Salvador’s position, however, blocked any agreement, resulting in an uncertain future of tropical tuna management in the Eastern Pacific. Failure to agree on conservation measures this time pushes the issue onto the already crowded agenda for the October meeting, which will once again be virtual. Each delay raises the risk that the Commission will not discuss and resolve other important pending issues.
There is still time to break the logjam. The rules of procedure allow for online or mail-in decision mechanisms. Using such tools during this intersessional period would allow member countries to adopt conservation measures for tropical tunas, so that October's meeting can focus on conservation measures for the overexploited Pacific bluefin, electronic monitoring on fishing vessels, shark conservation and other critical issues.
Failure to implement a science-based conservation program for tropical tunas, including improved fish aggregating device management, could see the collapse of fish populations and unleash a domino effect that will impact the industry, significantly reducing the number of jobs created and the economic growth of some countries. Conservation measures to guarantee the sustainability of tuna and the industry are urgent actions that require the support of governments, the scientific community, civil society and the fishing sector.
Atun Ecuador
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