Remote IOTC Meeting must Rebuild Yellowfin Tuna Stocks

Following the news that the 24th session of the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) Meeting will take place electronically, the Global Tuna Alliance (GTA), Tuna Protection Alliance (TUPA), the Sustainable Fisheries Partnership (SFP) and the Earthworm Foundation today urges the IOTC Secretariat and Delegations to ensure that meaningful discussions on rebuilding the overfished yellowfin stock take place in an open, inclusive and transparent manner.

The 24th session of the IOTC, already postponed to 2nd-6th November due to the impacts of COVID-19, will now take place electronically following the withdrawal by the Government of Indonesia as host of the meeting due to the ongoing pandemic.

The IOTC Secretariat are now beginning a process to obtain agreement from Members on how best to proceed and we request that meaningful discussions on rebuilding the overfished Indian Ocean yellowfin stock take place in an open, inclusive and transparent manner. We would like clarity on how any proposals will be considered, and assurances that the opinions of the supply chain and NGOs are heard by Delegates. We believe that progress can still be made in an electronic meeting if Delegates approach the issue sincerely.

This call to action was prompted by the yellowfin tuna stock being determined to remain overfished and subject to overfishing through the weight-of-evidence available in 2018 and 2019. The IOTC has an interim plan for the rebuilding the yellowfin stock, with catch limitations based on 2014/2015 levels (Resolution 19/01). However, many fleets are not subject to the catch reduction and have actually increased their catches; the total catches of yellowfin in 2018 increased by around 9% from 2014/2015 levels despite the resolution calling for an overall reduction calculated to be around 7%.

Retailers and their suppliers are firmly committed to sourcing responsible seafood from well managed fisheries. Regrettably, this stock still does not meet these requirements, and we have little confidence that Resolution 19/01 will rebuild the stock.

Nonetheless, prudent decision-making by IOTC Delegates at the 2020 meeting can rectify this situation, but time is running out for these decision-makers to act responsibly. The Global Tuna Alliance has retained consultants to review IOTC data on the Indian Ocean yellowfin stock and recommend the level of reduction in catch so as to allow stocks to rebuild in two generations. We anticipate this report being available shortly and will be shared with any interested parties.

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