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Tuna-Vessel Quotas Likely For Indian Ocean To Stop Overfishing

The registration and limitation of tuna vessels operating in the Indian Ocean are likely to be at the top of the agenda during the 13th session of the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission, or IOTC, to be held in Bali from Thursday through Sunday.

Officials at the Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Ministry said that this year’s meeting aimed to maintain the sustainability of tuna stocks and eliminate illegal fishing in the region through better registration of fishing vessels.

“Each country will have its own vessel quota in order to maintain fishing sustainability,” said Soen’an Hadi Poernono, the head of the ministry’s information and statistics bureau, in Jakarta on Sunday. “Without vessel quotas, as is the case now, it is difficult to manage tuna fishing.”

The IOTC is an intergovernmental organization that manages the fishing of tuna, including species such as skipjack, yellowfin and bigeye, across the Indian Ocean and adjacent seas. The commission has 28 member countries, including Indonesia, India, Malaysia and Australia.

The Indian Ocean is prone to overfishing, Soen’an said, with some indicators already showing a decline in tuna stocks. Most vessels, for example, had to go further out to sea to catch fish, and were finding tuna that were of smaller size than before.

The Indonesian government has already proposed to the commission to limit its tuna fleet to 884 vessels in the IOTC fishing zone. Vessels without documentation would be required to fish outside of that area.

Aside from limiting vessels, Soen’an said that the meeting would also discuss management of some tuna species, such as yellowfin and swordfish, which are prone to overfishing.

Commenting on the plan, Eddy Yuwono, chairman of Indonesia's tuna producers association, or Astuin, said the commission should not only consider vessel quotas, but also capacities.

Eddy said that while there were more than 800 vessels specializing in tuna fishing in Indonesia, those vessels were made of wood and had less than 100-gross-ton capacity. Meanwhile, there were only 14 Indonesian steel-hulled vessels operating in the Indian Ocean.

“Compared to countries like Japan, South Korea and Taiwan, we only have a very small number of vessels in the Indian Ocean, while those countries have about 900 steel-hulled vessels,” he said, adding that steel-hulled vessels could sail further and catch more tonnage than wooden vessels.

Tuna is Indonesia’s second-most important fisheries export product after shrimp. Bali Province is the country’s main producer, accounting for more than 50 percent of national exports. In 2007, Bali exported about 18,000 tons of frozen tuna, worth $58.9 million.