IOTC fails to protect vulnerable Indian Ocean albacore tuna, sharks – Greenpeace

Press release - 10 May, 2013
Port Louis, Mauritius, May 10, 2013 – Greenpeace International condemned on Friday the lack of action by Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) members to halt the decline of the region's most vulnerable tuna species and for adopting inadequate measures to protect sharks.

IOTC members meeting in Mauritius did agree to the introduction of precautionary fishing limits, in principle, although the management scheme required to ensure this is achieved will not be negotiated until next year (1).

Measures were agreed for endangered whale sharks, cetaceans (such as whales, dolphins and porpoises) and oceanic white tip sharks (2) that protect them from being intentionally caught in purse seine and longline fisheries, but other destructive shark fishing practices were allowed to continue. (3)

"Although a positive commitment was made – driven by the Maldives – to prevent stock depletion in the future, 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," Greenpeace International oceans campaigner Sari Tolvanen said.

"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."

Greenpeace International warned that resistance from various coastal states to precautionary conservation measures and the creation of more exemptions for smaller scale fleets will jeopardise the sustainability of tuna fisheries and the livelihoods and food security of fishing communities.

"Countries such as India, Sri Lanka, Indonesia and Oman refuse to apply management measures to their smaller fleets. This is detrimental to the sustainability of those fleets and the people who depend on them," Tolvanen added.

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.

Greenpeace is campaigning for a more sustainable fishing industry and a global network of fully protected marine reserves at sea, both necessary steps to ensure healthy, living oceans for future generations.

1. The so-called limit and target reference points adopted aim to ensure precautionary management of the tuna and swordfish stocks so that no overfishing takes place. These will need to be strengthened in the future along with best international practice and new scientific advice. The harvest control rules to implement them also need to be adopted at a later stage.

2. Only agreed as an interim measure until 2016 when this will be reviewed.
3. Proposals to protect hammerhead and silky sharks by not allowing them to be taken on board as well as a ban on removing shark fins were not adopted.

Sari Tolvanen, Greenpeace International oceans campaigner in Mauritius, +31 (0) 6 55 125 480

Aaron Gray-Block, Greenpeace International media officer on board the Esperanza, VSAT 1: +47 2367 7986,