Fisheries: Unprecedented progress in protection of Indian Ocean fish stocks thanks to EU leadership
Strides forward were made last week by the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission for the protection of the fish stocks in the Indian Ocean, such as tropical tunas and shark stocks. The parties agreed among others on an enhanced system for control and compliance, on introducing a time/area closure and on forbidding sharks from the thresher family from being taken or kept on board. These measures, probably the most far reaching undertaken by IOTC since its conception in 1996, all stemmed from EU's proposal and were made possible thanks to the EU's progressive leadership and close cooperation with all IOTC Members, particularly coastal developing states.
The 14th Annual Meeting of the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) held in Busan, Korea, on 1-5 March 2010, was said by Members to be the most successful in several years and saw the adoption of a number of innovative resolutions tabled by the EU. The following measures, all initiated by the EU, rank among the most concrete steps undertaken.
- IOTC established a time/area closure in the region outside the Somalian EEZ to 60 degrees E and between 0 and 10 degrees North throughout the month of February for longline fleet and throughout the month of November for purse fleet. This balanced approach, targeting longline and purse seine fisheries on equal footing, is the first management measure ever adopted by the IOTC.
- Members agreed to develop a TAC and Quota system by 2012 and gave the Scientific Committee a clear mandate to develop management options and present them to the IOTC. This long-awaited step will undoubtedly kick start the development of a strong fishery management system for the region.
- IOTC adopted a Port State control and inspection scheme which reflects the recent FAO Agreement on Port State Measures to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing and which is an important step forward in combating IUU fishing.
- The Commission adopted a market-related measure which is bound to strengthen the compliance powers of IOTC and the fight against IUU.
- The Commission undertook a detailed review of the degree of compliance of vessels with the main conservation measures. This led to a considerable expansion of the IOTC list of IUU vessels, including vessels flagged to the IOTC Contracting Parties themselves.
- A fund was created to support developing States’ participation to IOTC Meetings.
- The Commission issued a statement on Piracy reflecting its rising concerns with the upsurge of ruthless piracy acts. These jeopardize the delivery of humanitarian assistance to the Somali population and have also seriously impacted on merchant shipping and on legitimate fishing activities occurring, in accordance with international laws and under the monitoring of IOTC members, in the western part of the IOTC area of competence.
Moreover, for the first time in the history of IOTC, conservation measures were voted upon. Again, the vote was advocated by the EU and led to streamlined and more efficient decision-making. As a result, the few IOTC Members still opposing the ban on taking and retaining thresher sharks on board were outvoted.
In contrast to recent criticism of inaction and poor performance – as concluded by an IOTC Performance Review early last year - the European Union is extremely pleased with the progress made by this regional fisheries management organisation last week, and is confident that this turn of events will only benefit the natural heritage of the Indian Ocean.