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Report Rates Tuna RFMO's: IOTC And ICCAT Get Worst Scores Global, September 18, 12

The five collectives in charge of managing the world’s tuna fisheries are failing to mitigate by-catch, according to a new report launched at the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) World Conservation Congress last week in Korea.
The report assessed the performance of 13 regional fisheries management organizations (RFMOs) in governing by-catch and discards and found “widespread deficiencies.” The overall scores ranged from 1% to 58%, with all five tuna RFMOs scoring below 50%.
The Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC), which is responsible for tuna and other marine resources in the eastern Pacific Ocean, had the highest score of the tuna RFMOs and attained an average of 44. The Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC), which governs an area that supplies the majority of the global tuna catch, closely followed with 42, while the Commission For the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna (CCSBT) scored 24. The International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) and the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) performed the worst out of the five, finishing with 20 and 17 respectively.
The RFMOs were graded against the five criteria of monitoring, access to data, ecological risk assessment, controls, and surveillance.
The IATTC and WCPFC scored 65 and 62, respectively, in their monitoring or use of onboard observers. While both organizations have 100% observer coverage on all purse seine vessels, data and coverage is lacking in longline fishing operations. The IOTC, to contrast, has barely any observers monitoring catches – their rules require at least 5% of the number of operations/sets for each gear type to be covered – and it scored 7 in this category as a result.
Besides inadequate observer coverage, the report, written by Eric Gilman, a marine scientist at Hawaii Pacific University, and co-authored by Kelvin Passfield and Katrina Nakamura, also found access to observers’ data was limited or in the case of the CCSBT, ICCAT and the IOTC, non-existent. Not one of the 13 RFMOs provides open access to primary data and this is needed to understand by-catch and its impacts, according to the report.
Tuna RFMOs have “achieved mixed progress in governing adverse ecological effects of longline and purse seine tuna fisheries,” wrote Gilman in an email.
With the exception of the IATTC, the other four RFMOs scored an equal 25 in their assessment of the fishing impact on by-catch species. In terms of legally binding conservation measures to protect or reduce by-catch, both the IAATC and WCPFC performed better than their counterparts and this is likely due to their imposed closure periods on fish-aggregating devices (FADs).
The five RFMOs had similar scores in surveillance – either a 30 or 45 – but Gilman points out there is limited and inconsistent reporting of infractions. Better enforcement, including penalties to deter non-compliance, is needed. “Compliance with existing measures is likely low due to limited resources for surveillance.”
The performance assessment, funded by the Lenfest Ocean Program, is the “first comprehensive baseline” which could help track future progress in by-catch governance.