Mixed news on Southern Bluefin Tuna: stocks rebuilding but Indonesia is overfishing
Cambridge, UK, 21st October 2020—The annual meeting of the Commission for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna (CCSBT) took place last week where online delegates welcomed the news that the Commission’s rebuilding target for the spawning population for Southern Bluefin Tuna (SBT) to return to 30% of its unfished size is on track to be met by 2035. However, this positive news was somewhat overshadowed by deliberations on Indonesia exceeding its Total Allowable Catch (TAC) for 2019 and 2020.
Indonesia’s combined over-catch to date is 232.76 tonnes, but government representatives at the meeting said the country would not be reducing its fishing capacity for the remainder of 2020 and it is currently expecting to catch 1,600 to 1,800 tonnes of SBT, approximately 950 tonnes of over-catch for 2019 and 2020 combined.
“Indonesia is seriously undermining the combined efforts of other CCSBT Member governments to rebuild stocks of Southern Bluefin Tuna which were in a perilous situation a few years ago until greater restrictions were put in place,” said Glenn Sant, TRAFFIC’s Senior Advisor, Fisheries trade and traceability.
“The focus must stay with the rebuilding strategy back to what can be considered a biologically safe level and therefore it is no time to be increasing catches whether unilaterally or by agreement.”
TRAFFIC, along with other NGOs, urged CCSBT Members to address Indonesia’s non-compliance and for the country to pay back the over-catch, according to the Corrective Actions Policy, or it will set a precedent for other countries and potentially undermine the basis for CCSBT’s Management Procedure.
TRAFFIC welcomed the Global TAC remaining at 17,647 tonnes per year for 2021 to 2023, the same as the TAC for 2018 to 2020. This year an amount normally deducted from the TAC to account for Illegal Unregulated an Unreported (IUU) catch (306 tonnes) by Non-Members was returned to the TAC for distribution among the Members of CCSBT. In 2020 and beyond it will be accounted for as catch before calculating the recommended TAC.
To assist Indonesia to pay back its over-catch, delegates agreed that 80 tonnes out of that 306 tonnes would be given to the country as a special temporary allowance, in consideration of COVID-19 impacts on Indonesia’s economy as a developing coastal state. Japan and Australia also agreed voluntarily to transfer 21 tonnes and 7 tonnes, respectively, to Indonesia.
Although it is important to consider the implications of the COVID-19 pandemic, TRAFFIC has previously expressed concern over the Commission’s failure to ensure national quotas are adhered to and to implement stronger penalties to incentivise countries not to exceed their annual quotas.
During the meeting, TRAFFIC gave an intervention on countries having a mandate to submit SBT trade data to UN Comtrade, which highlighted the lack of awareness by some countries of the source of UN Comtrade data.
TRAFFIC also expressed concern over the continued high levels of seabird and shark catch within CCSBT fisheries and the lack of stringent measures in place to mitigate the impacts of this tuna fishery on ecologically related species.