Lost Opportunity for Indian Ocean Yellowfin Tuna stocks as IOTC member states fail again to agree rebuilding plan

Posted on March, 12 2021

WWF statement as IOTC Special Session concludes
12 March 2021 - The special session of the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) held virtually this week, concluded today with a disappointing outcome that leaves the yellowfin tuna population in a perilous overfished state for another year. IOTC member states failed to agree on the required ambitious rebuilding targets to lift the yellowfin tuna from its overfished state of 20% below sustainable levels, opting instead to delay the decision further to the Annual Meeting in June. The burden of proof laid on lack of science and data from the artisanal fisheries was cited as a sticking point in negotiations, along with a lack of ambition in overall catch reduction targets.

“WWF is deeply disappointed by the reckless disregard for the consequences of the failure to put in place much needed catch limits for yellowfin tuna stocks in the Indian Ocean. Hiding behind the excuse of ‘a lack of data,’ IOTC member states are pushing yellowfin to the brink - and threatening the livelihoods and food security of millions of people across the Indian Ocean,” said Marcel Kroese, global tuna lead for WWF. “Current data may be incomplete, but we know enough to know we have to do better, and we don’t have much time to get it right.”  

In late 2020, in response to the failure of the IOTC to adopt a robust and comprehensive yellowfin rebuilding plan, several retailers and tuna suppliers publicly committed to reduce, cease or freeze sourcing of yellowfin tuna from the Indian Ocean. 

“The IOTC needed to agree to implement a rebuilding plan to recover the yellowfin tuna population within two generations (approx. 10-15 years), and time is fast running out for this to happen. We advocate caution for any fishery when it enters overfished status, particularly when -- as is the case with Indian Ocean yellowfin tuna -- there are aggravating circumstances such as high juvenile mortality, the largely uncontrolled use of fish aggregating devices and lack of accurate catch data. Without addressing these, we are on a countdown to stock collapse,” said Umair Shahid, WWF’s Indian Ocean tuna manager.


Note to Editors:
WWF’s Position for the Special Session of the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission 24th Session can be found here

For further information, please contact:
WWF International Media team: news@wwfint.org 
Yellowfin tuna fishing catch in the Indian Ocean
© Simon Buxton WWF
Fisherman brings in a yellowfin tuna
© WWF-Philippines / Gregg Yan