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RFMO-5 Summit: Joint Global Tuna Management Fantasy Or Reality?

The world’s 5 Tuna RFMOs are gathering this week in an attempt to work together to achieve global management of the world’s stocks, but how far are they from reaching such goal?

The Second Joint Meeting of tuna RFMOs ( RFMO-5) is taking place in San Sebastian, Spain, with main objectives consisting in basically three aspects: 1) Review RFMOs’ accomplishments regarding Kobe1 Course of Action, 2) Implement the new “San Sebastian Course of Action” for the coming years and 3) to discuss overcapacity.

The Kobe1 Course of Action refers to tuna management decisions made in 2007 at the first RFMOs’ meeting in Kobe, Japan. The actions included 14 key areas and challenges to be urgently addressed through effective cooperation and coordination among the five tuna RFMOs to improve their performance. 

Most of the areas to be addressed consisted essentially in sharing information and using the same criteria to assess data regarding tuna stocks by all RFMOs. In addition, combating IUU fishing, implement monitoring systems for tuna vessels, studying FADs’ affects on incidental catch and going through a performance review were also some of the measures to be taken into action in the past 2 years.

Read below some of the achievements and shortages in actions from each tuna RFMO during that period:

·         ICCAT- Achievements: completed performance review in September 2008; research on FADs with results coming up next November.
     Shortages: Didn’t follow scientific recommendations to recover bluefin tuna stocks, no vessel monitoring system;
·         WCPFC – Achievements: Activation of a centralized Vessel Monitoring System on April 1, 2009. Implementation of a regional observer program (20% purse seine coverage in 2009, 100% in 2010 and 5% for the longline fleet by June 2012). Shortages: Didn’t follow scientific recommendations to recover bigeye and yellowfin tuna, no arrangements for a full performance review;
·         CCSBT - Achievements: completed performance review during 2008. Shortages: Under-reported catches, no monitoring catching system currently into effect, no mandatory penalties to deter IUU tuna fishing;
·         IOTC – Achievements: Regional Observer Program adopted in 2009, performance review completed in 2009. Shortages: No allocation mechanisms to control fishing effort currently into action, scientific recommendation only “taken into account” by member states, no catching monitoring system, no specific research to reduce catch of juvenile tuna;
·         IATTC - Achievements: Observer program with 100% purse-seine coverage, longline catch transshipments are monitored, research on FADs. Shortages: regional capacity plan to reduce capacity not taken into discussion; no performance review was undertaken, no penalties for IUU vessels agreed.

The first day of the Second Joint Meeting of Tuna RFMOs is dedicated to review the implementation of the Kobe1 Course of Action and the lack of it, as described shortly above. By Tuesday, the focus will be the future measures to be taken, the so called “San Sebastian Course of Action”.

During that same day, a workshop on capacity issues will take place in which Dr. James Joseph will present some facts and alternatives to address the problem. FADs and other efficiency boosters for tuna fishing were not mentioned as part of the overcapacity matter in his paper - submitted as one of the documents to the meeting - however, there’s a very interesting overview of what has been done among the tuna RFMOs so far regarding the issue.