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IATTC maintains conservation measures amid disagreements on tuna fleet capacity plan

Posted on September 01 2018

The yearly meeting of the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC), held on Aug. 24-30 in San Diego, California, decided to keep in force the same conservation measures for tropical tunas that were approved last year. These will be reviewed in 2020, attendees at the meeting told Undercurrent News.

The organization regulates tuna fishing in the Eastern Pacific Ocean (EPO) outside of countries' national waters. "So far the biggest disagreement is about convening an extraordinary meeting to fully discuss the management plan on fleet capacity," one industry source at the meeting told Undercurrent on Aug. 29. Prior to the meeting, IATTC staff recommended that the number of fish aggregating device (FAD) sets be limited, following concerns that FAD usage has been growing more rapidly than capacity in recent years. 

Additionally, the conservation-minded International Seafood Sustainability Foundation (ISSF) urged the commission to consider additional measures on the purse seine fleet. These include such measures as reducing FAD deployments and the number of active FADs allowed per vessel.

Ecuadorean tuna vessel owners, however, disagreed with the proposed measure to freeze the number of FAD sets used by purse seiners in the EPO.

The week before the IATTC meeting, Ecuador, the largest tuna fishing nation in the EPO, launched a new national plan to manage purse seiners using FADs "It was decided that the consultant hired to present the Fleet Capacity Management Plan should do additional work to improve the proposal and that the results be presented to all members in advance of the meeting of the IATTC capacity working group for their relevant analysis," the first source added on Aug. 30. 

The final report should be delivered to all IATTC members by the end of this year, sources said.

"From there it is expected to have a meeting of the IATTC fleet capacity working group for May 2019," the first source also said. IATTC scientists made it clear that there is no overfishing of any of the three species of tropical tuna, yellowfin, and bigeye, in the EPO, industry sources also told Undercurrent.

The scientific committee, however, raised concerns about overfishing of bluefin tuna and on the absence of sufficient data on albacore tuna. It also highlighted the need to collaborate with the regional organizations of the Western and Central Pacific to improve the methodology for bigeye tuna evaluation, Industria Pesquera reported earlier this week.

With respect to bluefin, the IATTC scientific committee recognized that juvenile mortality has been reduced and that the recovery objective would be reached if the current trend continues.  However, the population as a whole remains small "and the results of the preliminary assessment indicate that although reference points have not been adopted, the population is likely to be overfished and overfishing is likely to occur", Industria Pesquera reported.