Posted on 17 December 2020
After failing to adopt conservation and management measures for tropical tunas at its December 2020 meeting, the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC) will hold an intersessional meeting on 22 December.
WWF, along with other environmental organizations and industry representatives, as well as several governments, called for the special meeting after the commission’s regularly scheduled session ended without action on critical conservation and management measures for tropical tunas.
This failure to act came in spite of the dire need for effective fisheries management in the IATTC area. Bigeye tuna are overfished and overfishing is still occurring; the skipjack tuna stock has not had an in-depth stock assessment for a number of years; the stock of yellowfin tuna is at very low spawning biomass levels compared to other regional fisheries. The long-term issue plaguing this commission is the lack of will to address the significant excess fishing effort, mainly the over-capacity of the fishing fleets and the slow progress to improve the management framework for fish aggregating devices (FADs), which have proliferated in the last decade.
John Tanzer, WWF’s Ocean Practice Leader, said: “WWF hopes that the individual and collective action by stakeholders calling for this meeting sends a strong signal to the member governments that they should act responsibly and manage tuna stocks wisely, in accordance with scientific advice and the precautionary principle. The global public entrusts this responsibility to members and they must follow through.”
“Last week, the Western Central Pacific Fisheries Commission took action at its annual meeting to extend existing conservation measures for tropical tunas. IATTC should follow this example, which is clearly supported by most of its members and the majority of the industry dependent on the health of eastern Pacific bigeye, skipjack, and yellowfin,” Tanzer added.
At this extraordinary meeting, WWF urges the IATTC to ensure that the conservation and management measures for tropical tunas established in Resolution-C-17-02 is extended through 2021. We also expect that the schedule for 2021 meetings is adopted, specifically the:
- Meeting to carry out the Second Workshop for the Evaluation of Management Strategies according to the research plan prepared by the scientific staff and approved by the commission through Resolution C-19-07
- Meeting of the Ad Hoc Working Group on FADs to review and discuss additional measures for the management of FADs
- Meeting of the Ad Hoc Working Group of Fleet Capacity Management to resume the discussion on the plan to reduce the fishing capacity of the eastern Pacific
- 12th Meeting of the Scientific Advisory Committee
- Extraordinary Meeting of the Commission to review the pluriannual conservation and management measures for tropical tunas for 2022 to 2024
Should the IATTC fail to use this special session to extend existing conservation measures, tropical tunas in the eastern Pacific will be effectively unregulated as of January 20, 2021. This has the potential to cause chaos in the industry – both on the water and in the marketplace. Many nations have regulations barring import of unregulated seafood products. It is surely in the interest of all IATTC member states to find consensus and adopt measures that would ensure the long-term sustainability of their fish stocks.
Countries have the responsibility to act to avoid creating a technical and legal vacuum that could have serious consequences in the markets and for the environment. There is no room for unilateral measures; what is required is cooperation among countries to build consensus around necessary conservation measures that allow the entire industry to operate under sustainable limits and in a regulated manner.