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Who Is Watching Over Tuna?

Comparison of all tuna RFMOs observer programs show alarming results: only IATTC is watching over purse-seiners and has 100% coverage.

The Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC) prepared a document for its next Meeting, on June 5th, which presents comparisons between its own observer program and those of other Regional Fisheries Management Organizations (RFMOs).

The document considered the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT), Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC),
Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC), Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO), Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) and the Commission for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna (CCSBT).

According to the document, the IATTC is the only RFMO which secretariat fully coordinates its observer program, with its own observers on board: “The programs of the other RFMOs consist of national programs which make reports to the Commission or Secretary about their activities”, stated the document.

In addition, it published the following considerations:

  • All the tuna RFMOs, except WCPFC, have on-board observer programs for transshipments at sea. The CCSBT program will begin operations this year.
  • The IATTC has the longest-established regional scientific and enforcement program. Some organizations do not currently have programs, but have plans for future programs.
  • The IATTC, CCAMLR and NAFO have 100% coverage, but the main purpose of the latter two is enforcement. Other organizations have programs planned, but will begin with a lower rate of coverage.
  • ICCAT, WCPFC, IOTC and CCSBT have some observer coverage of longline vessels, or have a program planned. The IATTC has not established a longline observer program, but some of its members do have such national programs.
The summary of IATTC findings on the Scientific and Enforcement programs of the major RFMOs goes below:

Purposes and Objectives
Operation and Duration
Monitor incidental catch of dolphins in the purse-seine fishery for tunas
All vessels with a carrying capacity greater than 363 t during each fishing trip in the Agreement Area must carry an observer. At least 50% of the observers on each Party’s vessels must be IATTC observers.
Began in 1979; mandatory since 2000. AIDCP observer program is coordinated by IATTC Secretariat. 50% of the trips are covered by its own observers.
Annual budget approximately US$ 1.985.000; paid by the industry and IATTC members.
Intends to establish an on-board observer program for the bluefin tuna fisheries in the Eastern Atlantic and the Mediterranean Sea to enter into force in June 2009
Full coverage by observers of purse-seine vessels over 24 m as a part of the multi annual bluefin tuna recovery plan during the open season (2 months).
Not yet operative. National programs for eastern bluefin tuna will be operated by the member states;
Program for eastern bluefin tuna will be financed by the vessels and farms involved. Costs not available
A regional observer scheme was established through Resolution 2009/04. Observers aboard purse-seine vessels also monitor landings in port to identify the length composition of bigeye catches.
At least 5 % of the number of operations/sets by the fleet for vessels 24m overall length and over, and under 24m meters if they fish outside their EEZs, which should be achieved progressively by January 2013.
Regional observer scheme would begin in July 2010, when the respective resolution enters into force. Parties are responsible for conducting the program.
Cost would be met by each member Country. Costs not available.
Regional observer program is in the development stage.
During 2009, 20% coverage of all trips by purse seiners, with 100% coverage during the closure of the fishery on FADs. For 2010, coverage is intended to be 100%. For longliners and other vessels, coverage is 5% of all trips.
Due to begin in 2009. National and subregional programs supply observers for the regional program; the Secretariat assists with coordination, and ensures that observers are certified to Commission standards.
Cost of managing the program is borne by the Commission’s annual budget US$ 125.000. Placement of observers have expected costs about US$4–6 million and should be met by flag States and regional observers programs.
Members operate national scientific observer programs as part of the CCSBT Scientific Research Plan.
Actual coverage varies significantly among fleets and it has proved difficult to reach the 10% target for far-seas longline fleets.
Member States are responsible for observers aboard their vessels. Standards for the observer program adopted in 2003.
Paid for by the member States; costs not available.