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BREAKING NEWS: IATTC Agrees On 59 To 73 Days EPO Tuna Fishing Bans

The Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC) has finally reached an agreement of a 59 days tuna fishing closure for the Eastern Pacific Ocean (EPO) in 2009. The voting took place during the last day of the 80th IATTC Meeting in La Jolla, California, last week.

Korea, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, United Stated, France, Guatemala, Japan, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, Vanuatu and Venezuela reached a consensus that lead to the resolution above, in order to recover tuna stocks in the EPO – especially bigeye tuna.

Colombia, however, accepted the closure as ad-referendum, which means that it didn’t join the consensus yet due to some points that might be still discussed. The Individual Vessel Closure (IVC) proposed by the country was under discussion during the meeting and even accepted by some parties. The final outcome didn’t take it into consideration though, and Colombian higher authorities have until July 15th 2009 to ratify the positive vote the delegates made last Friday.

The final resolution is applicable for the years of 2009-2011 to all vessels from class 4 to 6 (more than 182 tons of carrying capacity) and to all vessels longer than 24 meters fishing for yellowfin, bigeye and skipjack at the EPO.

Those vessels should stop their fishing activities as the following:

2009 – 2010 From August 1st to September 28th OR from November 21st to January 18th, Total of 59 days;
2010 -  2011 From July 29th to September 28th OR from November 18th to January 18th, Total of 62 days;
2011 – 2012 From July 18th to September 28th, OR from November 7th to January 18th, Total of 73 days.

Considering the results of the first two years, the closure period may or may not be modified in 2011.

Vessels classified as class 4 (182 – 272 tons of carrying capacity) will be allowed to go for only one fishing trip – with duration no longer than 30 days and carrying an observer on board – during the closure period.

It seems that Ecuador was able to bend the IATTC parties to most of its requests, starting with the duration of the tuna ban for this year.

Last April, Ecuador’s Fisheries Sub-secretary, Guillermo Moran, announced that he would try to reach the 59 days closure at the IATTC meeting. And even though the country was not able to completely exempt class 4 vessels from the ban, they will only have to complete 50% of it.

The offshore area closure, between 94° and 110°W and from 3°N to 5°S, was also exponentially reduced from 109 days to one month – 29th of September to 29th of October.

According to IATTC staff, the tuna closure will reduce fishing effort by 20% over the next 3 years and 9% what comes to longline fishing for adult bigeye.

The International Seafood Sustainability Foundation (ISSF) was present at the meeting with an observer status and its president, Susan Jackson, stated that even though the organization is satisfied with the fact that some conservation measure has been agreed upon after two years, “this is not the endgame”.

ISSF recently released a resolution affirming that trade sanctions would be made if no conservation measures for bigeye tuna were decided and enacted during this last IATTC meeting.
Besides China, Japan, Korea and Chinese Taipei – which has specific quotas established by the Commission – other member countries should make sure that bigeye catches won’t transpose 500 M/T from their 2001 catching quantity of the species.

All member countries shall provide de IATTC the names of the vessels under the closure resolution and other unilateral conservation measures that might be taken before July 15th 2009.
The IATTC tuna fishing closure coincides with the Western Central Pacific Ocean tuna closure – From August 1st to September 30th – which may impact the global tuna prices due lower supply.