East Africa: Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries On 23rd Indian Ocean Tuna Commission

press release

South African delegation to attend and participate at the 23rd session of the Indian Ocean tuna commission meeting to be held in Hyderabad, India

The Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) is responsible for the management of tuna and tuna like-species in the Indian Ocean. The IOTC will be holding its 23rd annual Session Commission meeting in Hyderabad, India, from 17 - 21 June 2019. South Africa was, for a very long time, a Non-Cooperating Contracting Party member of the IOTC until the 3rd of September 2015 when the Parliament of the Republic of South Africa approved its accession to the IOTC, thus becoming a Cooperating Contracting Party member of the IOTC.

South Africa is quickly making a positive mark with respect to promoting the recognition of the rights and interests of Developing Coastal States (DCS) and is playing a pivotal role in leading, along with other DCS and Small Islands Developing States (SIDS) such as Australia, Indonesia, Maldives, and other members of the group of like-minded coastal States in the Indian Ocean, known as the G16.

South Africa has submitted the following three proposals to the IOTC Secretariat for tabling at the Commission meeting:

Vessel Chartering in the IOTC Area of Competence;

Concerning a Record of Licensed Foreign Vessels Fishing for IOTC Species in the IOTC Area of Competence and Access Agreement Information; and

Interim Plan for Rebuilding the Indian Ocean Yellowfin Tuna Stock in the IOTC Area of Competence.

The proposals aim to ensure acknowledgement and meaningful recognition of the interests of Coastal States. In addition to the above-mentioned proposals, South Africa, the Maldives and other G16 co-sponsors have submitted a proposal on the Allocation of Fishing Opportunities for IOTC Species. This proposal is the product of the collaborative work among the G16 countries which spans over decades. The discussion of this proposal is long-overdue, in particular given the levels of overfishing of the yellowfin tuna stock in the Indian Ocean and a clear indication of the ineffectiveness of the current management regime.

This challenge is exuberated largely due to limited implementation, and including the increased targeting of Fish Aggregating Devices (FADs)-associated schools which continue to overexploit yellowfin tuna.

It is clear that attempting to limit or reduce catches of yellowfin tuna by large industrialised fleets must be done via an allocation of fishing rights, and not through fishing capacity limitation, or vague measures requesting countries to limit their catches. South Africa and the like-minded States are calling for a new plan that will ensure the rebuilding of the stock for the benefit of future generations.

Ms Claudia Tomás de Sousa Director General at National Fisheries Administration at Ministry of Sea, Inland Waters and Fisheries, Head of Mozambique's delegation to the IOTC said: "The Indian Ocean tuna fishery is one of the world's most important and is a vital source of food, employment and livelihoods for coastal communities and nations."

The G16 allocation proposal aims to ensure that a fair, equitable, and transparent system of allocation of fishing opportunities is developed, while taking into account, the Sovereign rights of IOTC coastal States, in accordance with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and the United Nations Fish Stock Agreements. The dual aim is to support the long-term sustainability of IOTC species, while ensuring the special requirements of IOTC Developing Coastal States, and Small Island Developing States (SIDS), are accommodated including food security and development aspirations, thereby promoting opportunities for economic development and development aspirations.

Mr Trian Yunanda, Director of Fisheries Resource Management from Indonesia's Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries and Head of Indonesia's delegation to the IOTC said: "Developing a fair and equitable allocation system for the Indian Ocean tuna fishery, which places the rights and aspirations of coastal states over Distant Water Fishing Nations, should be an urgent priority for anyone committed to supporting the sustainable development of coastal states and halting the race to overfish their waters. Resolution of this issue has been postponed for far too long and significant progress towards an equitable outcome must be made at June's IOTC meeting in Hyderabad."

Many coastal states rely almost solely on the sea for employment and income, as well as basic food security. These specific needs are recognised within the G16 proposal which attributes 100% of catch history in EEZs, for the purposes of future access rights, to the coastal state in whose waters the catch was taken on the basis that historic distant nation catches in their EEZs do not mean those vessels have the right to keep catching fish in these seas.

Ms Siphokhazi Ndudane, Deputy Director General of the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Head of South Africa's delegation to the IOTC said: "The catch history in EEZs to the flag state of the catching vessel is an inequitable solution, which threatens the sovereign rights of coastal states to their waters.

The notion that a vessel's flag state should be given guaranteed future access to another nation's tuna resources simply because they 'rented' access for a short period, contradicts international fishery management frameworks such as the FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries which prescribes "recognizing the important contribution of artisanal and small-scale fisheries to employment, income and food security, States should appropriately protect the rights of fishers and fish workers, particularly those engaged in subsistence, small-scale and artisanal fisheries, to a secure and just livelihood, as well as preferential access, where appropriate, to traditional fishing grounds and resources in the waters under their national jurisdiction".

The work ahead of the Commission is a daunting one, and the world is watching with anticipation in particular amidst broader concerning developments at the European level, following the agreement by the European Parliament to bring back fisheries subsidies, in direct opposition to its commitments to phasing out damaging subsidies and to the Sustainable Development Goals.

This move has been widely criticised by environmental groups on the basis that it enables the building of larger, more efficient vessels that contribute to overfishing and unsustainable practices, compromising the genuine aspirations of the coastal states.

South Africa remains hopeful, willing and determined to engage with all participants during this upcoming Commission meeting - the task ahead requires that WE ALL WORK TOGETHER.

Issued by: Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries

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