Data loading...

IATTC World’s Most Transparent Tuna RFMO

During this period when the catch data of most tuna RFMO’s is often labeled as being incomplete and inaccurate or even unreliable  – there is one tuna RFMO which is clearly showing how proper monitoring of tuna catches should be done.

Although far from perfect, the Inter American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC)  IATTC –which manages tuna catches in the Eastern Pacific Ocean-  is regarded as an example for other RFMO’s when it comes to data gathering and monitoring of EPO tuna catch and its by-catches.

The IATTC’s quarterly report states that its offices abstracted logbook information from 263 trips of commercial fishing vessels and collected 330 length-frequency samples from 201 wells during the fourth quarter of 2008 (October- December).

The IATTC has field offices inLas Playas and Manta, Ecuador; Manzanillo and Mazatlan, Mexico; Panama, Republic of Panama; and Cumaná, Venezuela.

Even though quarterly reports are considered informal information, they are essential for those who want to be up to date on the management of the Eastern Pacific Ocean tuna fisheries.

Also during the fourth quarter, members of the field office staffs placed IATTC observers on 89 fishing trips by vessels that participate in the Agreement on the International Dolphin Conservation Program (AIDCP) On-Board Observer Program.

In addition, 115 IATTC observers completed trips during the quarter, and were debriefed by field office personnel.

Statistical data are continuously being collected by personnel at the IATTC’s field stations and processed at its headquarters in La Jolla. As a result, estimates of fisheries statistics with varying degrees of accuracy and precision are available. According to the report, the most accurate and precise data are those made after all available information has been entered into the data base, processed, and verified.

While it may require a year or more to obtain some final information, much of the catch information is processed and available within two to three months of the return of a vessel from a fishing trip.

The estimated total carrying capacity of the vessels that fished in the EPO (east of 150°W; EPO) during 2008 is about 225.100 cubic meters (m3).

The weekly average at-sea capacity for the fleet, for the weekly periods ending 29 September through 31 December, was about 128.560 m3 with range of 77.000 to 173.900 m3.

The EPO was closed to purse-seine fishing for tunas for various periods during 2008, which explains the low capacity-at sea averages.

The estimated total retained catches of tunas in the EPO during 1st January – 31st December 2008 were 551.200 M/T, being skipjack the most targeted species with 297.500 M/T in that same period (see table).

The AIDCP requires 100% coverage by observers on trips by purse seiners with carrying capacities greater than 363 M/T that fish for tunas in the EPO.

This mandate is carried out by the AIDCP On-Board Observer Program, made up of the IATTC’s international observer program and the observer programs of Colombia, Ecuador, the European Union, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, and Venezuela.

The observers are biologists trained to collect a variety of data on the mortalities of dolphins associated with the fishery, sightings of dolphin herds, catches of tunas and by-catches of fish and other animals, oceanographic and meteorological data, and other information used by the IATTC staff to assess the conditions of the various stocks of dolphins, study the causes of dolphin mortality, and assess the effect of the fishery on tunas and other components of the ecosystem.

The observers also collect data relevant to compliance with the provisions of the AIDCP, and data required for the tuna-tracking system established under the Program, which tracks the “dolphin-safe” status of tuna caught in each set from the time it is captured until it is unloaded (and, after that, until it is canned and labeled).

In 2008 the observer programs of Colombia, the European Union, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, and Venezuela have sampled half of the trips by vessels of their respective fleets while IATTC observers are to sample the remainder of those trips.

The South Pacific Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) was approved to collect pertinent information for the On-Board Observer Program of the AIDCP in cases for which the Director determines that the use of an observer from the AIDCP On-Board Observer Program is not practical.

Observers from the On-Board Observer Program departed on 143 fishing trips aboard purse seiners covered by that program during the fourth quarter of 2008. However, no observer training courses during the quarter were given.