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Long-term conservation crucial to rescue Eastern Pacific tunas

Mexico City, Mexico – WEBWIRE
© Brian J. Skerry National Geographic Stock WWF
© Brian J. Skerry National Geographic Stock WWF

 As unsustainable fishing rates and practices continue to pressure multiple Eastern Pacific tuna populations, WWF is calling on governments to agree on long-term conservation and management measures for the international fishery, which is valued at $1 billion USD.  
 Last year, the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC) held three successive meetings to reach agreement on conservation and management for bigeye, yellowfin and skipjack tuna populations. The resulting measures only cover fishing through the end of this year. Pacific bluefin tuna, which is highly depleted, is also in need of a long-term management plan.

 “IATTC members have spent a great deal of effort on short-term plans at a time when tuna populations require a more rigorous, more precautionary and a long-term management framework,” said Pablo Guerrero, WWF LAC Fisheries Director.
 Scientists recently provided the Commission with evidence that the Eastern Pacific yellowfin tuna population is being overfished while the region’s bigeye tuna population is on the verge of over-exploitation. In addition, the catch of juvenile bigeye and yellowfin tunas has increased in recent years due to the uncontrolled use of fish aggregating devices (FADs).

 “The science is telling us that something is not working with the stock management measures currently in place, and fishing nations must work together to agree on a better approach,” Guerrero said.

 Mr Guerrero said, “In the very near term, members should seriously consider increasing the closure to 72 days, which is what the Commission’s scientific staff recommend. Allocating catch quotas with specific control and monitoring provisions would also take fishing pressure off tuna populations, as would extending the closure of the corralito, an area west of the Galapagos.”

 In a position statement prepared for the Commission meeting, WWF applauded IATTC’s adoption of interim harvest control rules for tropical tunas and called for new testing of the rules to ensure the measures are robust. If effective, these fishing policies – guided by reference points and harvest control rules* – allow managers to act swiftly under a pre-agreed standard to ensure catches don’t exceed limits.

 A reduction in fishing capacity is also needed and, at the very least, the Commission should not approve any requests for additional capacity, the statement read.

 WWF also announced its support for a measure to provide security for observers working on board tuna fishing vessels, which is consistent with that passed by the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission in 2015.

 Guerrero added, “Observers are a key part of the fishing management scheme in the region as they provide vital information about the operation of the fleet. It is critical that they have basic equipment to ensure their safety while on board.”

 WWF’s complete position statement for the 92nd Meeting of the IATTC is available here. IATTC member and cooperating non-member countries meet in Mexico City from July 24 to 28.

A harvest control rule is the pre-agreed management action taken in response to changes in the fishery and/or changes in abundance status in relation to reference points. The adoption of harvest control rules is a key aspect of modern fisheries management and is also a requirement of important eco-label certification programs such as the Marine Stewardship Council.
A reference point is a benchmark value that helps managers decide how the fishery is performing and is based on an indicator such as fishery stock size or the level of fishing.

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