Press release

Indian Ocean tuna commission reaches landmark decision on harvest control rules

May 26, 2016

The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) applauds the decision by the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) to adopt much needed harvest control rules for skipjack tuna caught in the Indian Ocean. The agreement, reached by member states attending the IOTC annual meeting this week in La Reunion, marks a turning point in the management of tuna stocks and will support the long term sustainability of the Indian Ocean skipjack fishery.

Rupert Howes, Chief Executive of the MSC said: The adoption of this harvest control measure is a ground breaking moment in the responsible management of tuna fisheries globally. The Maldives, supported by other Indian Ocean coastal states and the International Pole and Line Foundation (IPNLF), led the efforts to ensure that a framework is put in place for improved management of skipjack stocks. We congratulate the IOTC and all involved in delivering this agreement, a critical breakthrough for sustainable management of Indian Ocean tuna fisheries.”

The culmination of months of meetings and collaboration

This new measure received wide support among IOTC member states, demonstrating the collective commitment among both coastal and distant water fishing nations to maintaining healthy skipjack stocks in the Indian Ocean, and benefiting all fisheries, including the MSC certified Maldives pole and line fishery.

This decision is the culmination of months of meetings and collaboration among numerous organisations including fishers, industry groups and retailers. In February, the IPNLF hosted a workshop, supported by the MSC, WWF, the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation (ISSF), Sainsbury’s, Marks and Spencer and World Wise Foods, helping to build support for the Maldivian proposal. A number of retailers and brands, including Tesco, Waitrose and Princes, also added their voice in recent months to calls for the harvest control rule. Their commitment to sustainably sourced tuna has provided further incentive for international agreement on the protection of tuna stocks for the future.

The MSC's requirements were a catalyst for the decision

Dr David Agnew, Science and Standards Director at the MSC said: “The MSC’s requirements for well-defined harvest control rules have been a catalyst for this decision. We applaud the efforts of the Maldivian fishers who, along with the IPNLF and other industry and NGO groups, have shown strong leadership in finding a consensus on this vitally important issue.”

Skipjack in the Indian Ocean is currently abundant, with stocks in a healthy state. Well-defined harvest control rules will ensure that this continues to be the case. Skipjack is the most widely consumed species of tuna, typically sold in cans. Globally, around 3 million tonnes of skipjack is caught every year (FAO 2014). Last year close to 700,000 tonnes was caught by MSC certified fisheries, representing about 22% of the total supply. There are now more than 245 MSC labelled skipjack tuna products, an increase of 113% since March 2014.

The first ever precautionary harvest control rule

Martin Purves, IPNLF Fisheries Development Director said: “This is the first ever precautionary harvest control rule adopted by a tuna Regional Fisheries Management Organisation while stocks are not overfished and reaffirms the sustainability credentials of the MSC-certified Maldives pole-and-line fishery. Action still needs to be taken to rebuild overfished yellowfin tuna stocks, and the IPNLF will continue to work with others to achieve this.”

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