The Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) held its annual meeting in the Seychelles from May 16 to 20. “Although 22 proposals were submitted, the resulting measures, which were finally adopted, concerned relatively minor management issues. The most difficult and critical ones concerning yellowfin tuna and skipjack had to be postponed to next year due to lack of consensus,” regrets the STA in a statement issued on May 31.
“The situation regarding the yellowfin tuna stock has worsened in the Indian Ocean according to the latest IOTC scientific report,” explains Cougen Purseramen, President of the Sustainable Tuna Association (STA), which brings together Mauritian companies. “This Commission meeting was important to adopt more drastic measures to ensure the long-term sustainability of Indian Ocean stocks and the associated processing industry and the thousands of jobs that come with it. Despite the obvious urgency of the situation, it is regrettable that some countries have chosen to ignore scientific advice once again, perhaps not realizing that by doing so, the situation will get worse every year.
At IOTC, resolutions are adopted by consensus. If any of the 30 member countries objects, the resolutions cannot be adopted. “In 2021, when a new resolution on yellowfin tuna was adopted, six countries subsequently decided that the catch reductions could not be applied to their respective countries. This year, these same opponents, along with others, prevented the adoption of further necessary reductions. Each country must make more effort. Mauritius was going to be affected by further cuts, yet our delegation explained that our country and our industry were ready to make the necessary sacrifices, because if not, the whole Indian Ocean will suffer,” added Cougen Purseramen.
No agreement on yellowfin and skipjack
Tropical tunas are highly migratory species that move throughout the Indian Ocean, transiting through different exclusive economic zones (EEZs) and the high seas.
STA members say they note the “widespread disappointment worldwide, from various stakeholders, at the lack of agreement on yellowfin and skipjack tuna.
“Some NGOs are already calling on European distributors not to buy yellowfin tuna from the Indian Ocean. It is unfair to put the responsibility on all members indiscriminately, while a number of countries, including Mauritius, have advocated for more management measures and were ready to make additional efforts,” deplores Cougen Purseramen.
The next meeting of the IOTC Commission will be held in Mauritius in 2023. All member governments will be represented by delegations, as well as their respective industries and a large number of NGOs.
The Sustainable Tuna Association is composed of Mauritian seafood companies: Princes Tuna (Mauritius) Ltd, Indico Canning, Froid des Mascareignes, Marine Biotechnology Products, Cervonic, Seafood Hub Ltd and Transfroid.