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Long-awaited measures aim to reduce pressure on Indian Ocean tuna stocks

Mombasa, Kenya (07 February) - WWF welcomes the adoption of new conservation measures on fish aggregating devices (FADs) at the recent Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) meeting in Mombasa, Kenya.

Three years in the making, this important step will help improve the sustainability of skipjack, yellowfin and bigeye tuna fisheries, including for the role they play in the livelihoods of thousands of Indian Ocean coastal communities.
Recent exponential growth in FAD use has increased the risk of overfishing of tropical tunas, particularly juveniles that have not yet reproduced. FADs can also lead to the unintended catch of other species; where tunas aggregate, sharks are also present. The devices contribute to ocean pollution and habitat degradation, due to the non-biodegradable material they are made of and damages they can cause to vulnerable coastal habitats, such as coral reefs.

Both yellowfin and bigeye tuna are overfished. With these two commercially important tropical tuna stocks in the red, this is an important step in the right direction. Reducing the number of drifting devices by 33% over the next three years will help to reduce cumulative impacts on target tuna stocks and associated marine ecosystems,” said Umair Shahid, WWF Indian Ocean Tuna Manager.

The decision on drifting FADs (dFAD) introduces new transparency and reporting requirements and requires a progressive reduction in the number of allowed FADs from the current level of 300 per purse seine vessel to 250 by January 2024, and 200 by January 2026.
Improved transparency, reporting and data collection will help inform science-based management advice on the use of FADs, including seasonal prohibitions. 

However, WWF remains concerned that more stringent measures are required in order to move toward a multi-annual rebuilding plan to restore stock and ocean health.
“It is essential that all member states abide by the rules and adhere to catch reductions and limits to allow these tuna populations to recover,” said Shahid.
“We note the divergent views of parties on new FAD measures and urge all parties to respect the outcome of the IOTC vote and constructively work together.”
“Now is the time for stakeholders and policymakers to stand together on this important journey to sustainability,” said Shahid.

Notes for editors:

[1] In 2018, the end value of Indian Ocean yellowfin was more than US$4 billion, making it one of the world’s most valuable fisheries, and the dock value—or the amount paid to fishers—was more than US$1.5 billion. Source: Pew Charitable Trusts (2020) Netting Billions 2020: A Global Tuna Valuation.
[2] The latest findings and recommendations of the IOTC Scientific Committee are available here.