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Robust Harvest Control Rules are Essential for Indian Ocean Tuna Sustainability

28 January 2016

MALDIVES - On 3-4 February 2016, the Maldives will host an important workshop to further advance the understanding of Management Strategy Evaluations (MSEs), with the overriding aim to agree an appropriate harvest control rule (HCR) for tuna stocks under the jurisdiction of the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC).

This HCR recommendation will be an integral component of a proposed resolution at the 20th Session of the IOTC, being held in La Réunion in May.

The workshop is being led by the Government of the Maldives and the International Pole & Line Foundation (IPNLF), with support and co-sponsorship from the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation (ISSF), WWF and the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), as well as three IPNLF Members – Sainsbury’s, Marks & Spencer (M&S) and World Wise Foods.

The workshop will bring together numerous participants from 19 Indian Ocean coastal states and intends to build on the momentum already generated at previous Coastal States Meetings and IOTC-supported Management Procedure Dialogues.

It is hoped that the collective support generated through this collaborative approach will lead to the adoption of harvest strategies for key tuna species at the IOTC meeting.

It is recognised that the Indian Ocean’s coastal and small island developing states all have a collective responsibility to ensure the effective management of shared tuna stocks. Indeed, fisheries are one of the most significant renewable resources that these coastal states have for food security, livelihoods and economic growth.

It is also widely accepted that the future social, economic and environmental benefits that these shared tuna resources can provide will require balancing the increasing demands on fisheries with the capacity of stocks to sustain those harvests.

Specifically, the workshop has been designed to further increase the capabilities of these coastal states in the following areas:

  • Appreciating MSE as a tool for identifying alternative harvest strategies
  • Development of harvest strategies as a tool to improve the sustainability of tuna fisheries, including the evaluation of their performance against management objectives through a MSE process
  • Understanding the sensitivity and robustness of different strategies to uncertainties
  • Improvement in the technical expertise of developing coastal states to engage in the continuing dialogue around the development and implementation of sustainable tuna management through the IOTC

During next month’s two-day meeting, experts will deliver presentations on some of the key concepts, followed by discussions among participants on the elements of fisheries management, with an emphasis on the need to ensure effective management strategies of the shared tuna stocks in the Indian Ocean.

Participants will be led through material covering the precautionary approach, MSE and harvest strategies for tuna fisheries, with a focus on the Indian Ocean skipjack fishery. Material presented and discussed will be region-specific and will be delivered in plenary presentations followed by small group discussions.

By the end of the workshop, participants will be more conversant on the range of topics covered, and will be better equipped to participate at the Commission and Scientific Committee meetings. The importance of collaboration among coastal states on proposals to progress the management of shared tuna stocks in the Indian Ocean will also be emphasised. This should also lead to closer collaboration on specific proposals in the future.

Looking ahead to the Maldives’ meeting, Dr Shiham Adam, IPNLF’s Director for Science and the Maldives, says: “Several important lessons have been learned from previous workshops, among them the need for capacity building to level the playing field among managers, scientists, fisheries and other stakeholders. Many need to clearly communicate the likely impacts of different catch levels together with the need for dynamic management approaches that can succeed even when faced with the large uncertainties that currently exist in the stock assessments.”

Dr Adam continued: “We are grateful for the leadership that the Maldives authorities continue to demonstrate with regards to the conservation of Indian Ocean tuna stocks. The country’s pole-and-line skipjack tuna fishery – the first Indian Ocean tuna fishery to receive MSC certification – follows a traditional, highly selective and low impact form of fishing and is the only viable source of employment and livelihood for more than 20,000 fishermen and their families in the island communities. The Maldives is also playing a key role at the IOTC to develop the region’s sustainable fishing credentials by helping to establish limits and targets for the stocks and harvest control rules, as well as requirements for better information gathering in relation to vessel infringements and protection of endangered, threatened and protected species.”

IPNLF helps ensure the demand for one-by-one caught tuna can be met without compromising the sustainability of the fisheries, while at the same time providing much-needed support for fishing communities who are heavily reliant upon those stocks.

TheFishSite News Desk



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