Sustainable Fisheries Partnerships in the Indian Ocean

Rondolph Payet replacement pic

Global Island News interviews Rondolph Payet, Executive Secretary, Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC).

In your view, is tangible progress being made in respect of industry, environmental groups and the scientific community collaborating to forge and implement sustainable partnerships, projects and new development in the fisheries sector?

There has been an immense effort from all angles (Industry, Environmental and Scientific groups) in the past few years to forge and implement sustainable partnerships and to look at new developments that would also allow more sustainable practices. These include the MSC certification of the Maldives Pole and Line Fishery and efforts made by the industry to test and develop ecological Fish Aggregating Devices (FADs) under the Project MADE (Mitigating ADverse Ecological impacts of open ocean fisheries), funded by the European Union. Also, the engagement of the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) in enhancing the participation of developing States in the IOTC process; the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation (ISSF’s) support in innovation towards FADs and fleet capacity management; Birdlife International working with IOTC members with regard to mitigation of seabird bycatch in the longline fisheries; as well as the PEW Charitable Trusts supporting initiatives for mitigating IUU fishing in the tuna fisheries in the Indian Ocean and reducing shark bycatch.

Improved governance positively impacts the quality of the scientific advice and consequently the management and sustainability of resources and the communities that depend on them.

These initiatives represent a renewed interest in making a difference in the Indian Ocean Tuna Fisheries, including from the Contracting Parties that provide the enabling environment, to ensure that these partnerships can flourish. Notwithstanding the above efforts, there is still room for improvement, in particular through promoting and securing the participation of other industry and environmental groups – that have so far operated on the margins of the IOTC – in the joint work that other agencies are undertaking.

Given the fisheries sector’s importance in driving GDP growth amongst IOTC members, has generating political buy-in and consensus around limits on catches proved to be an uphill task, or can they see the long-term merits of determining a binding optimum sustainable yield?

Tuna fisheries in the Indian Ocean is unique compared to the other oceans, whereby there are two very important sectors; industrial and semi-industrial/artisanal. The semi-industrial/artisanal sector, practised mostly in developing coastal States, catches about 60 per cent of the total tuna landed, while the industrial sector, dominated by the distant water fishing nations, catches the remaining 40 per cent. The two sectors are at different ends of the spectrum, and developing consensus around catch limits would always be an uphill battle. While both sectors recognise the need to ensure the sustainability of the IOTC stocks through the implementation of management measures, they have yet to agree the type of measures to be implemented and the fleet components that should be the focus of those measures.

My view is that you cannot treat the two in the same way, since they have different priorities. However, the Commission acknowledges the need for long-term benefits and improved contribution to the GDP of the respective countries, and an active engagement on how best to manage these tuna resources.

To this end, a series of IOTC Resolutions have been adopted, with a view to conserving and managing tropical tuna stocks in the IOTC Area of Competence, leading to discussion concerning allocation criteria and examination of alternative management measures, in combination with clear management objectives on the part of the contracting parties. Although, to date, no agreement has been achieved, the Commission is committed to the process and to aid it, is adopting interim target and limit reference points for the main five market species managed by the IOTC.
Meanwhile, the IOTC Scientific Committee validates these points through the implementation of Management Strategy Evaluation (MSE) and develops and assesses potential Harvest Control Rules, which take into account changes in stock status. MSE work is currently ongoing for the Albacore and Skipjack tuna stocks and will be initiated soon for other stocks, including yellowfin tuna, bigeye tuna and swordfish. A recently adopted resolution on Enhancing the Dialogue between Fisheries Scientists and Managers, expects to provide a formal forum to discuss these issues.

How are the IOTC’s capacity building activities monitored to ensure the special needs and interests of developing countries are appropriately served and that people’s lives are positively impacted on the ground?

Our capacity building activities are designed for the IOTC members, in particular, to assist developing countries to meet their obligations to the organisation. The resulting improved governance positively impacts the quality of the scientific advice and consequently the management and sustainability of resources and the communities that depend on them.


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