At the recent annual meeting of the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission, delegates reaffirmed IOTC’s stance on reducing by-catch and charged its scientists with finding further ways of reducing accidental shark catches.
In a communiqué released following the meeting IOTC members stated that they are, “aware of the potential effects of tuna fishing on other species in the same ecosystem and has already taken steps to reduce the incidental mortality of seabirds and turtles that could take place during fishing operations. Similarly, the Commission has requested its scientists to collect information and evaluate the situation of the populations of sharks in the Indian Ocean.”
Nature Seychelles has given its backing to the IOTC stance, which provides welcome and necessary protection for non-target fisheries species.
“Working alongside international partners Nature Seychelles has long called for greater action to be taken to limit by-catch numbers. We are delighted that IOTC has reaffirmed its commitment to by-catch best practice,” said Nirmal Shah, Nature Seychelles CEO.
In addition to addressing the problem of by-catch, the IOTC meeting also targeted problem areas which Nature Seychelles and other environmental organisations have previously highlighted, such as illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing and catch sustainability.
The commission issued a statement encouraging the development of control mechanisms in ports and preventing the international trade in IUU caught fish and, while the most recent IOTC-cited evidence does not indicate excessive exploitation of any of the main tuna species in the Indian Ocean, the commission has recently taken steps to limit the size of the Indian Ocean industrial tuna fishing fleet.
Similar steps were agreed upon at the Mauritius meeting, to curb expansion of the region’s swordfish and albacore fishing fleets, with special consideration for fleet growth given only to developing nations.
Established in 1996 and headquartered in Seychelles, the IOTC’s 26 members are Australia, Belize, China, Comoros, Eritrea, France, the European Union, Guinea, India, Iran, Japan, Kenya, Korea, Madagascar, Malaysia, Mauritius, Oman, Pakistan, Philippines, Seychelles, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Tanzania, Thailand, United Kingdom and Vanuatu, as well as Indonesia, Senegal, South Africa and Uruguay as cooperating parties.