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Indian Ocean Tuna Commission Adopts Controversial FAD Limits

05 May 2015

SOUTH KOREA - At its 19th annual meeting, held in Busan, South Korea, 24 April to 1 May, the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) agreed to adopt an interim Fish Aggregating Device (FADs) limit of 550 FADs per vessel.

This limit will entail real reductions in terms of numbers for European fleet segments active in FAD fishing and will temper the rapidly increasing use of these FADs, while avoiding serious economic and social disruptions to the concerned fleets and ensuring a stable supply of fish to the cannery industry in the Indian Ocean.

The close cooperation between the EU, Mauritius and Seychelles was essential to the success of this proposal.

The EU also noted that a working group has been set up to assess the impact of FADs used in large-scale fishing and that the working group will work in close contact with a similar working group established by ICCAT, to address various issues relating to FADs, such as evaluating and monitoring their use and mitigating possible negative effects on the target species and ecosystems.

The working group will also address the regulation of deployment limits of FADs.

FAD's attract tuna, and some other species, allowing bigger catches for fishing vessels but they often include a high bycatch of unwanted species and juvenile tuna.

Many conservation groups therefore worry that the high FAD limits are putting tuna and some other fisheries at risk.

Francois Chartier of Greenpeace France commented on the announcement of FAD limits, saying: “This is further expansion of FAD use dressed up as FAD control, and is further evidence of the failure of the IOTC to manage this serious and rapidly growing problem. Worse still, it completely undermines the voluntary commitment made by the French fleet to limit their own FAD use.”

Dr Wetjens Dimmlich, WWF’s Indian Ocean Tuna Programme Manager, stated: “Comments from some IOTC members who question moves to improve the management of tuna fisheries, on the grounds that stocks are currently doing well, are extremely concerning.”

“If they wait until there is a crisis before taking action, then they have waited too long.”

Fortunately for the IOTC, they have inherited a tuna fishery that is not yet over-exploited. But scientists say this honeymoon period is ending, with catches increasing rapidly, and the difficult decisions can’t be avoided any longer.

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