In the run up to the 98th Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC), the Global Tuna Alliance (GTA) – a group of highly influential retailers and supply chain companies – asked a simple question: “will they get it right this time?”. Time after time, the IATTC has failed to reach a consensus on an improved conservation measure for tropical tuna; something which – as the Regional Fishery Management Organisation for the Eastern Pacific Ocean – they are required to do.

Princes Ltd, one of Europe’s largest food and drink groups, and a GTA partner, said:

“We are extremely disappointed at the lack of agreement on tropical tuna conservation and catch limits from the IATTC. As a business with a global ocean sourcing strategy, we are becoming wearily familiar with the lack of political consensus and long-term sustainable thinking from Regional Fishery Management Organisations.”

Going into the 95th IATTC meeting in November 2020, the GTA (along with influential NGOs such as the PEW Charitable Trust) called on the IATTC to adopt a robust, precautionary conservation management measure, based on scientific advice, that would replace the ineffective ‘Resolution C-17-02’ – which was due to expire at the end of 2020 –  and limit fishing pressure on yellowfin and bigeye. At a minimum, the groups asked the IATTC to ensure that the current tropical tuna conservation measures would not lapse at the end of 2020. In spite of this the IATTC failed to reach an agreement on a new measure. With industry pressure and media coverage highlighting the shortcomings of the IATTC, an extraordinary meeting was called to address the extension of the conservation and management for tropical tunas. The new measure is a clone text of the old one, and is now “Resolution C-20-06 for 2021”.

Despite there being another extraordinary meeting in June, during which five proposals were discussed and progress was made towards reaching a single, agreed measure, all eyes were on the full meeting of the IATTC last week (23rd – 27th August 2021) to achieve an agreement on a revised measure for tropical tuna from 2022 onwards.

At the August meeting, held last week, six proposals were presented – signaling a step in the wrong direction for a process aimed at agreeing a single text. Following five days of discussion, no agreement could be reached on a single text. Despite the efforts made at the June extraordinary meeting to focus on agreeing reduced FAD limits and extra fishery closure days for the fishing vessels catching the most bigeye tuna – certain delegates refused to compromise.

Yet another IATTC meeting scheduled for October was programmed to cover issues outside of the tropical tuna conservation measure – such as biodiversity beyond national jurisdiction and at-sea transshipment. However, these issues will once again be pushed aside as delegates seize their last chance to deliver on their own mandate and effectively manage these commercially important stocks.

Many GTA partners source tuna from the Eastern Pacific Ocean and are disappointed by the lack of progress made:

“Markets want sustainable tuna stocks and well managed fisheries” said Princes Ltd, “so that our business can plan for the long term, and provide sustainable tuna to consumers. The lack of agreement from the IATTC will be concerning for many businesses that source from the region”.

ENDS

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