Published 26 June 2015


Eastern Pacific fisheries commission must act to protect tunas, sharks and manta rays

Guayaquil, Ecuador, 26th June 2015—TRAFFIC is urging government members of the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC), currently meeting in Guayaquil, Ecuador, to implement a recovery plan for Pacific Bluefin tuna stocks, to address fishing over-capacity in the region and to demonstrate what action they have taken to implement protection measures for sharks and rays. 

Bluefin tuna on sale in Japan © Michel Gunther / WWF

Pacific Bluefin tuna stocks have fallen by 96% according to the International Scientific Committee for Tuna and Tuna-like Species in the North Pacific Ocean and IATTC scientists, while overall tuna fishing capacity in the region currently exceeds the optimal scientifically recommended level by at least 50%.

“Only a significant reduction of catches and stringent measures to protect juveniles can ensure long-term sustainability for the Pacific Bluefin tuna fishery,” said Glenn Sant, TRAFFIC’s Fisheries Programme Leader. 

TRAFFIC is also calling on the members of the Commission to report on what actions they have taken to implement measures after seven shark and two manta ray species were listed in Appendix II of CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) in 2013. 

Trade in Appendix II listed species is strictly regulated, requiring permits. Many of the countries who proposed the listing of sharks and manta rays in CITES are also members of the IATTC. They include the IATTC host nation, Ecuador, as well as Colombia, Costa Rica, the European Community, Mexico and the USA. 

“Those IATTC members who called for sharks and manta rays to be listed under CITES should be leading the way in ensuring these measures are fully implemented and calling for all Commission members to consider how best they can manage their collective impact on these species,” said Sant. 

Although there is a clear responsibility for management within an individual State’s waters, international co-operation is also required because the species migrate across several States’ waters and are also caught on the high seas.

“A focus on regional cooperation and regional management by IATTC is essential,” said Sant. 

“Taking a share of the stock requires sharing in the responsibility to ensure it is sustainable.”

In October 2014, the IATTC halved fishing quotas for Pacific Bluefin tunas and in 2015 agreed that no country could exceed catching 3,500 tonnes this year and that nations must establish a catch documentation system. TRAFFIC welcomes these steps but also considers a Pacific-wide recovery plan for Pacific Bluefin tunas with robust harvest control rules and firm catch limits is needed. 

Currently Japan, Mexico, the United States and South Korea are the major nations fishing Pacific Bluefin, while the main market is Japan.

Meanwhile, fishing over-capacity remains a concern, as does the status of Bigeye and Yellowfin tunas, which are also caught in the region. 

“IATTC members should urgently consider a freeze on current fishing capacity and look towards reducing the number of vessels permitted to fish for any tunas in the Pacific Ocean if this fishery is to have any meaningful long-term future,” said Sant. 

Tuna fisheries in the Eastern Pacific Ocean are currently a major industry, sustaining the livelihoods of tens of thousands of people and contributing towards economic growth and social development in the region. 

The IATTC is responsible for the conservation and management of tuna and other marine resources in the eastern Pacific Ocean. Current members are: Belize, Canada, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, European Union, France, Guatemala, Japan, Kiribati, Korea, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, Chinese Taipei, United States, Vanuatu and Venezuela. Honduras is a Cooperating Non-Member.

Several conservation organizations have collaborated to produce a factsheet on Manta and Devil Rays (Mobulids) of the Eastern Tropical Pacific