Closing to fishing an area already largely closed by pirates is a long way short of being meaningful fisheries management, WWF said at the conclusion of the annual meeting of the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) in Busan, Korea today.
“The Indian Ocean Tuna Commission continues to lag well behind nearly every other comparable fisheries regulator in its failure to introduce catch limits for the commercial fish species under its control,” said Dr Amani Ngusaru, head of WWF’s Coastal East Africa Marine Programme.
“We have agreement on a catch limit for bigeye and yellowfin tuna, as recommended by the scientists and this is a big step forward for the IOTC. And we have a non-binding commitment that catch limits for the tuna resources of the Indian Ocean will be considered at the 2012 meeting, which could be a big step nowhere.” “In the meantime, we have this laughable measure that an area off Somalia which is already largely off limits due to piracy will be closed to long-liners for a month and purse seiners for a month. Are we really serious about limiting fishing pressure on our already overfished stocks ?”
But the IOTC did rather better on protecting sharks and seabirds.
“The vote to adopt a ban on commercial landing of endangered thresher sharks is not all we wanted in relation to sharks and to the trade in shark fins but it is a major advance for the commission,” Dr Ngusaru said.
“It also illustrates the truth of our assertion for all the world’s Regional Fisheries Management Organisations that they make better decisions when they vote on recommended fisheries management measures than when they race to the bottom trying to achieve a consensus.”
With studies showing that several endangered albatross and petrels were highly vulnerable to longline fishing in the Indian Ocean during their critical juvenile phase, the commission hardened seabird catch mitigation requirements for longline boats operating south of 25 degrees south.
Boats will now need to use two out of five recognised mitigation measures which include minimum light night operation, bird scaring lines, weighted branch lines and blue-dyed bait.