Summary of the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission Meeting

Written by on May 20, 2013 in Policy & Ocean Law

The 17th Session of the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) was held earlier this month (May 6-10) in Mauritius.

The IOTC is a regional fisheries management organization (RFMO) responsible for the sustainable management of tuna and tuna-like species (such as billfish and sharks) in the Indian Ocean.

Tuna hauled on board a fishing vessel.

Tuna hauled on board a fishing vessel. Photo credit: lizardwisdom via photopin cc.

Here’s a quick summary of what happened at the meeting:

The oceanic whitetip shark became the most comprehensively protected shark in the world. At the end of the meeting, the IOTC members agreed to release oceanic whitetip sharks if caught in fishing gear and to ban the holding on board, shipping, landing or storing of this species by any vessels under the jurisdiction of the IOTC. Combined with the protection oceanic whitetips gained at the last meeting of CITES, this shark is now protected around the world.

The commission adopted a proposal to ban the setting of purse-seine fishing nets around whale sharks. The whale sharks can become entangled in the nets which can result in death.

The commission will now require the use of non-entangling fish aggregating devices (FADs) by tuna fishing vessels in order to protect silky sharks. Typically, FADs are made with old netting which can entangle and kill the sharks. Although, fishermen will still be allowed to keep any silky sharks that get caught in fishing gear and FADs in general are still a highly controversial fishing method.

The commission failed to adopt a proposal to protect hammerhead sharks for the second year. (At least hammerheads gained some protection at the CITES meeting a few months ago.)

The Maldives adopted a proposal regarding interim target and reference points (values that help managers decide how a fishery is performing) and a framework for management decisions involving changes in stock status.

Despite the positive outcomes, Greenpeace International has expressed its disappointment in IOTC members for failing to protect Indian Ocean albacore tuna and sharks.

School of Atlantic bluefin tuna.

School of Atlantic bluefin tuna. Photo credit: NOAA.

To learn more:

Copyright © 2013 by Marine Science Today, a publication of Marine Science Today LLC.

About the Author

About the Author: Emily Tripp is the Publisher and Editor of She holds marine science and biology degrees from the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and a Master of Advanced Studies degree in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation from Scripps Institution of Oceanography. When she's not writing about marine science, she's probably running around outside or playing with her dog. .


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