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WWF: IOTC Bali Meeting A Complete Failure

Bali, Indonesia: The Indian Ocean Tuna Commission – in the spotlight as some coastal fishers whose stocks it has failed to protect turn to piracy instead - is continuing in its unbroken record of failure to regulate one of the world's largest tuna fisheries.

The commission, which has just concluded its 13th meeting in Bali, failed to set catch limits for any of the fisheries it is supposed to be regulating, failed to agree any new measures to restrain rampant over-fishing, failed to set effective rules on shark finning and put off a much needed decision to reform itself.

IOTC scientists, grappling with dangerously inadequate information on all stocks, had warned that yellowfin tuna was “probably” overfished.

“Most of the world's large tuna fisheries are poorly managed by bodies that commission scientific assessments and then set catch quotas that ignore them, but the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission is the most dysfunctional of all,” said WWF International Marine Director Miguel Jorge.

“Another stumbling block in the negotiations has been EU intransigence on large Spanish and French fleets maintaining their swordfish catch levels at dangerously high levels.”

“At the same time the commission has just been wringing its hands on the piracy issue, with a resolution failing to note that the pirates now attacking merchant shipping are from coastal communities that got into the aggressive habit of trying to defend their fishing livelihoods from illegal fishing by foreign fishing boats.”

The meeting also failed to make adequate progress on proposals to ban shark-finning by requiring sharks to be landed whole – with fins naturally attached - rather than with the existing limited restriction of having a whole shark to fins ratio of just five percent, making it hard to identify how many sharks of which potentially endangered species are being taken in what may be one of the most wasteful and unsustainable fisheries.

Other controversial measures were a failure to extend the high seas large scale drift net ban to coastal waters, deferring consideration of vital Catch Documentation Scheme improvements and failure to adopt a realistic observer program.

“Many member States appear to be operating on a hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil basis which supports continuing rampant non-compliance with even a lax management regime,” said Jorge.

“No-one knows what is really going on, few seem to care, States report their catches late or not at all and the scientists that are supposed to be the cornerstone of the system are doing the best they can with the scraps of data they are given.”

While some regional fisheries management organizations are functioning better than others, WWF is taking its dissatisfaction with the workings of some of the flagship commissions such as the IOTC to the marketplace and work with the seafood industry to demand better management by RFMOs and sustainable tuna fishing.