Yellowfin tuna from the Indian Ocean is currently sold by most major supermarkets in the Global Tuna Alliance. Responsible retailers have sought to influence best practice through our supply chains at a fishery level, as well as advocating for the adoption of effective policy by members of the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC), including a recent statement from the UK market urging IOTC delegations to follow scientific advice and agree to a resolution which will confidently rebuild the stock to ensure it is no longer overfished, nor subject to overfishing.
However, at the 23rd meeting of the IOTC in June, delegations failed again to halt the decline of the Indian Ocean yellowfin tuna population by agreeing an overall catch reduction of around 10 percent. Furthermore, the nominal catch data reveals the 2018 catch of yellowfin tuna increased from 2014 by 6.7%. (423,393 tonnes from 396,635 tonnes). This is despite the fact that the scientific advice given to the IOTC was for a reduction in yellowfin catch of 20% originally from 2014 levels. Lastly, a new stock assessment was carried out for Indian Ocean yellowfin tuna in 2019 and, unsurprisingly, it determined no qualitative difference with the assessment carried out in 2018; that is the stock remains overfished and subject to overfishing.
Retailers and their suppliers have all made firm commitments to source responsible seafood from well managed fisheries. Regrettably, this stock still does not meet these requirements, and the agreed cut in June will not lead to a stock recovery1. Nonetheless, prudent decision-making by IOTC delegates at the 2020 meeting can rectify this situation, and Global Tuna Alliance partners may choose to source yellowfin tuna to support decision makers; but time is running out for these decision-makers to act responsibly. Accordingly, we now are calling for the IOTC Scientific Committee to propose, and the IOTC to agree a clear rebuilding strategy for yellowfin tuna that will rebuild stock in two generations in a manner that is equitable, proportionate and impactful.
Should an agreement between member states, in line with advice from the scientific committee, prove impossible in 2020, then individual supply chain members will be forced to re-evaluate their purchasing decisions.
The Global Tuna Alliance is an independent group of retailers and tuna supply chain companies, who are committed to implementing the objectives laid out in World Economic Forum’s Tuna 2020 Traceability Declaration.
1. From stock projections in paper IOTC–2018–SC21–16