Will we see action on yellowfin at the 25th Session of the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission?

Indian Ocean yellowfin tuna is overfished with overfishing occurring. The Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) held an abbreviated remote meeting in November 2020 and agreed to hold a special session from 7th-11th March 2021 to discuss rebuilding yellowfin. Unfortunately, this meeting ended with no agreement on rebuilding and the 25th Session of the IOTC remains the last realistic chance for delegates to demonstrate to the market that they are serious about tuna sustainability.

The Global Tuna Alliance, a precompetitive collaboration of retailers, suppliers, wholesalers and brands who collectively bought 1.27m tonnes of tuna, worth over USD $1.3bn, in 2020, urges the IOTC to immediately end overfishing and rebuild the yellowfin stock in two generations.

To achieve this, the IOTC needs to agree a resolution that:

1. Applies to all fishing vessels targeting tuna and tuna like species in the Indian Ocean regardless of the length of the vessel and area of operation.

Currently, 42% of the yellowfin catch is exempt from the existing rebuilding plan. Increased catches from these exempt fleets have more than offset the reduction made by the fleets that actually reduced their catch!

2. Effectively reduces the catch.

The IOTC’s own scientific committee has determined that the Fishing Mortality in 2017 was 20% higher than the target reference point of Fishing Mortality at MSY. Therefore, a resolution should achieve a reduction in fishing mortality of 20% to meet the target reference point of FMSY. This equates to roughly a catch of 341,000 tons (or a 16.7% reduction in catch – based on data from SC21 (2017 catch 409.6kt))

To achieve this within the time-constraints of a virtual meeting, we encourage delegates to discuss proposals in advance of the meeting.

Should an agreement, in line with advice from the scientific committee, prove impossible, then individual supply chain members will be forced to re-evaluate their purchasing decisions.

Dr Tom Pickerell, Executive Director at the Global Tuna Alliance, said:

“Time is running out for IOTC delegates to demonstrate they are serious about tuna sustainability. We are looking for leaders to champion the rebuilding of overfished yellowfin


The Global Tuna Alliance is an independent group of retailers and tuna supply chain companies working collectively to generate a step-change in sustainable tuna management across the world.

Indian Ocean yellowfin tuna is overfished with overfishing occurring. Despite a rebuilding plan having been in place since 2016, catches have actually risen by 7.8% from 2014 to 2019.  2014 catch 421,093mt; 2019 catch 454,138mt. Data from nominal yellowfin catches (2014-2019).

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