IATTC Meeting Reportby Mariana Ramos Sánchez, Director of the Pacific Alliance for Sustainable TunaJuly 23rd, 2015

IATTCAt the beginning of July, I had the opportunity – along with several members of the Alliance – to attend the 89th Annual Meeting of the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC) in Quito, Ecuador. The meeting covered many issues relating to sustainability including protections for sharks, mobulid rays and Bluefin tuna; illegal unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing; FAD tracking and fishing quota increases.

As a science-driven organization, the Alliance is very concerned about the health of the entire ecosystem in which we fish. Mobulid rays, sharks and the Bluefin tuna are an important part of a healthy ocean ecosystem and they are critical to fishing industries on both sides of the Pacific. The Alliance was very pleased to see that the IATTC members reached a consensus on a proposal to protect mobulid rays, which are vulnerable to overfishing. The measure prohibits the retention of rays caught incidentally – with exemptions for some artisanal vessels – and outlines a range of techniques that help fishers with live release. Protections for silky sharks and hammerhead sharks did not make the cut despite data showing a significant population decline is happening.

Scientists and Mexico’s delegation to IATTC, led by the National Commission of Aquaculture and Fishing (CONAPESCA), agree that something must be done to protect the Bluefin population. Unfortunately despite Mexico’s leadership on this issue, the member countries of the IATTC were unable to come to consensus on how to address the Bluefin tuna problem. Because the situation is so dire, CONAPESCA made the bold decision to voluntarily reduce its annual quota of Pacific Bluefin tuna by 10% to 2,750 metric tons. The Mexican delegation pushed other countries fishing Bluefin tuna to take similar measures, but unfortunately, no other country took action to protect Bluefin tuna. Mexico’s approach to Bluefin tuna is an important sustainability move that we hope will catalyze action toward protecting Bluefin tuna. Additionally, because Bluefin are so important, the members of the Alliance have announced our voluntary withdrawal from fishing Bluefin tuna for the next 5 years (2015-2019) to allow the stocks to recover.

To help combat IUU fishing, since 2010, the IATTC has been discussing port State measures that would help ensure transparency and de-incentivize IUU fishing. The members have not yet arrived at a consensus on port State measures, but they were able to agree on a measure that clarifies how to list vessels that practice IUU fishing and delist them once they are no longer linked to these activities.

Peru, Colombia and Guatemala all petitioned for fishing quota increases, but were denied until further study can be made into the fish populations in their waters. The IATTC member countries, in an effort to track fish aggregating devices (FADs) usage, agreed that FADs must be physically marked beginning in 2017. Scientists will review data to come up with potential management measures beginning in 2018.

Our members are focused on the long-term sustainability of the ocean and we hope in the future that the IATTC member countries will be able to come to a stronger consensus on issues that impact the sustainability of our fisheries.