Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 24th Session of the Indian Ocean Commission will be held by video-conference, from 2nd to 6th November 2020.
To assist the smooth running of the meeting in this novel virtual format, the IOTC secretariat have prepared a pre-meeting discussion document organised according to the meeting agenda. This sets out the recommended actions and offers a comments section for Heads of Delegations to make comments or ask questions. All participants will be able to see the interventions and any responses.
The deadline for responses to this pre-meeting discussion document is 4pm Seychelles time, on Friday 23rd October 2020.
Agenda item 11 (Conservation and Management Measures (CMM)) is of most relevance to rebuilding the overfished yellowfin stock. There are two particularly germane topics within this agenda item:
- 11.1. Future CMM proposals (IOTC-2020-S24-PropA)
- 11.2. Report on current IOTC Conservation and Management Measures that include a reference to the year 2020 (IOTC-2020-S24-05)
The Future CMM proposals topic includes a Proposal on a Management Procedure for Yellowfin Tuna in the IOTC Area of Competence. One of the main components to a well-managed fishery is the implementation of an effective harvest strategy, also known as a management procedure.
Management procedures are frameworks designed to achieve defined biological and economic objectives in a strategic, objective, transparent and inclusive manner. A management procedure is a formal specification of what, and when, management actions are to be made in response to changes in a fishery.
In essence, the decisions are set and agreed in advance, which alleviates the politics from the management decisions to ensure that the management objectives for the fishery can be achieved. With a management procedure in place, fishery stakeholders are able to operate with greater confidence, management decisions are more transparent, and there should be fewer unanticipated outcomes necessitating hasty management responses.
The work on the draft resolution for a yellowfin tuna management procedure has been progressing since 2019 there is optimism that a yellowfin tuna management procedure can potentially be adopted in 2021.
To achieve this, delegates should request the Management Strategy Evaluation group to meets in the first quarter of 2021 to progress the work on all five species and the Technical Committee on Management Procedures meets adjacent to the 2021 IOTC Commission meeting to further progress the development of the yellowfin tuna management procedure for possible adoption in 2021.
The second pertinent agenda item, Report on current IOTC Conservation and Management Measures that include a reference to the year 2020, directly concerns the interim yellowfin rebuilding plan (19/01).
The recommended action is that “no immediate actions are required on the existing CMMs that make reference to the year 2020”. This, of course, will not result in the building of the overfished yellowfin stock and may result in further decreases.
Appreciating that the impacts of COVID-19 have presented challenges in allowing full discussions, we do not believe current circumstances should prevent the IOTC from taking action. A 25% cut in catch is needed to rebuild the stock in two generations but at a minimum we call on delegates to request a special session of the IOTC to allow time to comprehensively discuss rebuilding the overfished yellowfin stock.
The IOTC Rules of Procedure state that, during intervals between regular Sessions, the IOTC may convene special sessions of the Commission, if requested by at least one-third of its members. This would require the support of at least 11 IOTC countries.