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Indonesia Votes Against IOTC Plan To Separate From FAO

Indonesia is against a plan from the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) to separate from the Food and Agricultural Organization of the UN.

Indonesia’s representative at the 13th annual meeting of the IOTC currently in Bali, Nilanto Prabowo, said the organization’s status should remain as it is, which is under the auspices of the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), since separation might lead  to increased control of the organization by the bigger developed nations.

“We have the interest to retain IOTC’s position under FAO, as the UN organization cares about the existence of the developing countries in the commission,” he said.

IOTC was established in 1996 as an intergovernmental organization under a UN convention.

It has 28 members including Australia, the UK, Japan and the EU representing the interests of developed UN member states, while Indonesia, Iran and India are among those representing developing ones.

Nilanto also said that there were concerns on the part of developing countries about the possibility of changes in the IOTC system should the IOTC split from the FAO.

The IOTC could become a more market-oriented organization with major countries and interests taking control of the commission, Nilanto said, circumstances that could put the tuna industry in developing countries at risk, as they did not have the capacity for full-blown competition with larger competitors.

The proposal to separate from FAO has so far secured the backing of countries like Japan, Australia and New Zealand, but opposition from many developing nations.

Nilanto said China, Iran and India shared the Indonesian position.

This proposal, to leave the FAO, first originated from a recommendation by an independent panel of IOTC, as it saw the management of the commission as too dominated by the UN’s complex bureaucratic system, making it less efficient and often less transparent.

IOTC executive secretary Alexandro Anganuzzi acknowledged the wide difference in opinions between the groups for and against change.

“It is very premature for us to say [about the outcome to separate or not], it will be up to members to do what they want,” he said.

IOTC’s main objective is to promote cooperation among its members to ensure the conservation and optimum utilization of tuna stocks in the Indian Ocean region.

It is holding its 13th annual meeting in Bali from March 30 until April 3 to discuss these issues.

Indonesia, which is the largest tuna producer in the Southeast Asia region, only recently joined the IOTC as a full member in 2007, after previously serving as a cooperating non-contracting party.

In 2008, Indonesia produced 937,000 tons of fish, including 125,933 tons of tuna.  The year before, it produced 892,000 tons of fish, including 121,316 tons of tuna.

The country has said earlier in the meeting that it would propose an additional 500 tuna fishing boats to be added to its existing fleet of 874 tuna fishing vessels.