Greenpeace attacks IOTC efforts

13 May 2013
Greenpeace's 'Esperanza' headed to Mauritius to persuade the IOTC to address unsustainable fishing practices in the Indian Ocean Photo: Jiri Rezac / Greenpeace

Greenpeace's 'Esperanza' headed to Mauritius to persuade the IOTC to address unsustainable fishing practices in the Indian Ocean Photo: Jiri Rezac / Greenpeace

Greenpeace International has accused the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) of lacking in action to halt the decline of the region’s vulnerable tuna and taking measures to protect sharks.

It says that although IOTC members meeting in Mauritius recently did agree to the introduction of precautionary fishing limits this will not be negotiated until next year. Also, although measures were agreed to protect cetaceans from purse seine and longline fisheries, other destructive shark fishing practices are being allowed to continue.

Sari Tolvanen, Greenpeace International oceans campaigner, said: "The current situation leaves little room for optimism. The Indian Ocean's tuna stocks hang in the balance as fishing intensifies and the region currently lacks the data needed to properly manage its fishing capacity and effort.”

He added: "IOTC members failed to adopt a proposal to cut catches of albacore tuna by 30% to protect the most vulnerable tuna species in the region, and to eliminate the wasteful practice of shark finning. Purse seining with destructive Fish Aggregation Devices (FADs) also continues with little control."

But the IOTC says it made "good progress" at the meeting. It adopted a proposal from the Maldives on interim target and limit reference points and a decision framework for harvest control rules - a necessary measure for  tuna fishery MSC certification.

Mauritius and the European Union have tabled a combined proposal standard for reporting data specific to FADs, along with requiring the use of non entangling FADs to be phased in beginning in 2014.

A proposal from Mozambique was adopted requiring vessels to provide an IMO number to the IOTC vessel
register if they have one, and requires that all vessels larger than 24m must have one by 2015. IOTC says that accessible IMO numbers are an important step toward controlling overcapacity.

Sharks weren’t forgotten either. Oceanic whitetip and whale sharks will now benefit from improved protection and conservation measures in the Indian Ocean. Proposals from the Maldives, Australia, EU and Japan will ban both the intentional setting on whale sharks and cetaceans and the retention of oceanic whitetip

And, the Seychelles’ proposal was also adopted, which requires purse seine vessels to retain and land all bigeye, skipjack and yellowfin tuna, except those unfit for human consumption.

But IOTC admits there is still progress to be made on the shark finning issue and the need for all nations to supply timely and accurate statistical data on catch and effort and bycatch.

Meantime, Greenpeace warns that the creation of more exemptions for smaller scale fleets, such as those in India, Sri Lanka, Indonesia and Oman, will jeopardise the sustainability of tuna fisheries and the livelihoods and food security of fishing communities.

The Greenpeace ship Esperanza has been documenting fishing activities in the Indian Ocean since March, observing suspicious transfers of fish at sea and exposing suspected illegal fishing in the protected Chagos waters.

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