Press release

Sustainable management of tropical tuna in East Pacific

December 16, 2020

From 1 January there could be no restrictions for tropical tuna fishing in nearly half of the Pacific Ocean, increasing the risk of overfishing of commercially important skipjack, yellowfin and bigeye tunas, the Marine Stewardship Council warns, unless all the member governments reach an agreement on how to manage these stocks in 2021.  

The MSC standard requires fisheries certified to its globally recognised standard to limit their catch within sustainable limits. Robust management is one of the fundamental principles of sustainable fisheries, especially for those catching highly migratory species such as tuna, as it prevents overfishing.

However, the body responsible in international law  for agreeing how much tuna is safe to catch is yet to reach a consensus on important measures to restrict tuna catch in the Eastern Pacific Ocean in 2021. Scientific advice recommended to carry over the rules set for 2020 into 2021.

After the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC) failed to reach agreement at their meeting earlier this month, the Chair of IATTC has called an extraordinary meeting of the delegations on 22 December, recommending carrying over the 2020 management measures into 2021 and holding a series of further meetings in 2021 to develop the way tuna stocks are managed in the Eastern Pacific Ocean.

IATTC had previously agreed management measures for skipjack, yellowfin and bigeye in the Eastern Pacific Ocean. Having such measures in place even when stocks are perceived as healthy enables fisheries to act quickly when needed. 

With increased demand for tuna globally comes increased pressure on tuna stocks and associated ecosystems. At present 17.5 % of the world’s tuna fisheries are overfished. 

The Marine Stewardship Council’s Chief Science and Standards Officer, Dr Rohan Currey, said:

“We welcome IATTC’s decision to convene an extraordinary meeting, reflecting the critical importance of maintaining the conservation measures for tropical tuna stocks.  The nations involved must find a way to reach a consensus that will protect the future health of these economically important stocks, that reflects scientific advice and is grounded in a robust long-term management plan. 

“Nations have a duty to come together to manage fisheries and their impact on the oceans. If the IATTC cannot agree on how to manage this tropical tuna fishery, it will have effectively abandoned this duty, putting the future of the stocks at risk. We join with others in expressing deep concern about this and urge the delegates to reach a speedy decision on this at their extraordinary meeting on 22 December.”

The MSC’s Tuna Handbook details the difficulties regional tuna fisheries management organisations face in reaching consensus. Some regional fishery management organisations take the approach that the entire fishery is closed to all fishing if negotiations fail to reach a consensus.

Worldwide there are 23 stocks of the major commercial tuna species. 

            

Update 23 December 2020

At its extraordinary meeting on 22 December 2020 IATTC members agreed to adopt for another year the existing conservation management measures for tropical tunas. These will be in effect during 2021 while the Commission continues to discuss additional protections for tropical tunas in the eastern Pacific Ocean. 

 

Stock photo of yellowfin tuna underwater

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