WWF calls for 30% reduction in Indian Ocean yellowfin tuna catch

Posted on May, 05 2023

WWF will call on the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC), meeting in Mauritius 8-12 May, to reduce the annual catch of Indian Ocean yellowfin tuna by 30%, in line with analysis provided by the IOTC’s Scientific Committee.
[Madagascar] The Indian Ocean yellowfin tuna fishery – calculated in 2018 to be worth more than US$4 billion – is approaching collapse after more than a decade of inaction to curb overfishing. A 30% reduction in annual allowable catch is necessary to give Indian Ocean yellowfin tuna populations the opportunity to recover, says WWF. 

The Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) first adopted an interim plan to rebuild the populations of tuna and tuna-like species in 2016. Since then, four further resolutions have been adopted. 

Despite these efforts and progress on paper, yellowfin tuna catch remains unsustainably high, with no material reduction in catch despite clear recommendations from the IOTC’s Scientific Committee. In 2021, a report from the committee found that a 30% reduction in the catch level from 2020 would be needed to grant a two out of three chance of rebuilding the stock by 2030.  

“The IOTC’s efforts to rebuild yellowfin tuna stocks over the past eight years have been ineffective,” says Umair Shahid, WWF’s Indian Ocean Tuna Manager. “This is partly due to the body’s rules of engagement, most notably the rule that allows any IOTC member to object to, and opt out of, any resolution within 120 days of the resolution being adopted. 

“Many parties come here to work in good faith to sustainably manage the Indian Ocean yellowfin tuna stock. But a few use their power to undermine resolutions aimed at rebuilding the stocks to healthy levels. It’s contrary to the whole notion of cooperative fisheries management.” 

WWF will use the IOTC annual meeting from 8 to 12 May to ask all IOTC members to adopt an overall catch reduction of 30% for yellowfin tuna, considering there are now two regional stocks in the red (yellowfin tuna and bigeye tuna). 

The conservation organization will also ask members to commit to complying with IOTC resolutions and limit baseless objections to increase accountability and ensure healthy tuna stocks and oceans for future generations.

Key points

  • The Indian Ocean’s yellowfin tuna fishery was valued at more than US$4 billion in 2018. Source: Pew Charitable Trusts (2020) Netting Billions 2020: A Global Tuna Valuation.
  • In 2021, a report from the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission’s Scientific Committee said that a 30% reduction in catch level from a 2020 baseline is needed to provide a two-thirds chance of rebuilding the stock by 2030. Source: Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (2022) Report of the 24th Session of the IOTC Scientific Committee
  • Despite the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission adopting several resolutions to rebuild tuna populations, yellowfin tuna catches have remained unsustainably high over the past decade, decreasing by only 3% from 2020 to 2021. 
  • The Indian Ocean Tuna Commission will hold its 27th annual meeting from 8 to 12 May 2023.
  • At this meeting, WWF will reiterate support for a 30% reduction in annual yellowfin tuna catch against a 2020 baseline.
  • It will also argue that the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission’s ability to effectively manage tuna and tuna-like populations in the Indian Ocean is being hamstrung by the commission’s rules, which allow members to unilaterally opt out of any resolution.

For more information

WWF International media team
WWF South Western Indian Ocean (SWIO) communications team
Yellowfin Tuna (Thunnus albacares)
© Brian J. Skerry / National Geographic Stock / WWF