Global Tuna Alliance calls for 25% catch reduction in Indian Ocean yellowfin tuna

The Global Tuna Alliance, a body working with Friends of Ocean Action to eliminate illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing in tuna fisheries, has published independent management advice and proposals for action for Indian Ocean yellowfin tuna. In a new report, the Global Tuna Alliance calls for a 25% catch reduction to help rebuild the overfished stock in two generations.

Leading scientists agree that the Indian Ocean yellowfin tuna stock is overfished and has been subject to overfishing since 2016. Management measures implemented by the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) have not been effective in rebuilding the stock, despite indications that this stock could collapse as early as 2024. Many fishing fleets are not subject to catch reductions and have increased their catches. Total catches of yellowfin tuna in 2018 increased by approximately 9% from 2014 levels, despite calls from scientists for an overall reduction of approximately 7%.

Yellowfin tuna from the Indian Ocean is a popular product with global seafood consumers, and is currently sold by most major supermarkets that are members of the Global Tuna Alliance and signatories to the World Economic Forum’s Tuna 2020 Traceability Declaration. To comply with sustainability commitments, the fishing of Indian Ocean tuna must be managed in a way that rebuilds stocks to sustainable levels – through precautionary recovery strategies based on sound scientific advice. Currently, stock management fails to meet these requirements.

“It appears that current interim plans for rebuilding Indian Ocean yellowfin tuna are not sufficient to restore this fragile stock. The global community has committed to implement science-based management plans to restore fish stocks in the shortest time feasible. This is a vital target of the UN's Sustainable Development Goal for the ocean, SDG 14.4. I urge the IOTC to ramp up levels of ambition to honour this commitment and safeguard the sustainability of Indian Ocean yellowfin tuna stocks,” said Ambassador Peter Thomson, UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the Ocean and Co-Chair of Friends of Ocean Action.

There is still time for the IOTC’s members to rectify this situation and opt for sustainable management measures rooted in scientific advice. The next IOTC annual meeting will take place virtually on 2-6 November 2020, having been postponed due to COVID-19 restrictions. Global Tuna Alliance consultants have reviewed the IOTC’s data on the Indian Ocean yellowfin tuna stock, and recommend a significant reduction in catch for stocks to rebuild in two generations.

The Global Tuna Alliance report concludes that a 25% reduction in catch compared to 2017 levels will be necessary to rebuild the stock in two generations. Three specific proposals on catch reductions are recommended:

- 25% catch cut for all fisheries that surpassed a set threshold in 2017 or 2018

- Increasing catch reductions for purse seines, gillnets, longlines and other gears (building on the ambition level of IOTC Resolution 16/01) while decreasing catch thesholds

- Catch cuts for different fleets, taking into account the contribution by each fleet (by weight) to the total catch and the percentage of reduction or increase in their catches achieved in 2017 and 2018, regarding the baseline year 2014

In all proposals, a 24-25% catch reduction is achieved. These reductions in fishing mortality could be reached either by reducing the fishing effort by fleet, or implementing a cap in the number of vessels for larger fleets.

“The recovery of the Indian Ocean stock of yellowfin tuna can only be achieved through the joint effort of all fleets and countries involved. Not much time is left for Indian Ocean yellowfin tuna. If no effective measures are implemented in the next couple of years the stock could crash in less than a generation, which would be catastrophic for the livelihoods of many fishers and coastal communities around the Indian Ocean,” said Tom Pickerell, Executive Director of the Global Tuna Alliance.

“If an agreement between the IOTC’s member states in line with advice from the scientific committee proves impossible in 2020, then individual companies across the supply chain will have no option but to re-evaluate their own purchasing and procurement decisions,” added Pickerell.


- The Global Tuna Alliance is an independent group of retailers and tuna supply chain companies committed to fast-tracking sustainable harvest strategies, improving traceability and human rights across all tuna fisheries, and implementing the objectives laid out in the World Economic Forum’s Tuna 2020 Traceability Declaration as championed by Friends of Ocean Action.

- Download the full Global Tuna Alliance report here.

- Learn more in the Global Tuna Alliance press release here.