Peter Chaibongsai, representing TBF at a meeting of the U.S. Advisory Committee to Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC), an international organization with authority over highly migratory fish in the eastern Pacific Ocean, reviewed relevant fish science and provided advice for the U.S. team just prior to annual negotiations.
The Committee’s review of yellowfin and bigeye tuna stock assessments learned both species are overfished, but overfishing is not continuing. Even so, the overfishing threshold is close. (“Overfished” is when the abundance of fish in the water is lower than what scientists recommend is needed to produce sustainable yields each year. “Overfishing” is the act of harvesting fish at a rate that precludes rebuilding stocks to produce sustainable yields.) Because the purse seining capacity (fishing vessels) in the eastern Pacific had increased approximately 11% during the past three years, the Committee recommended the current IATTC 62 day purse seine closure be increased to 87 days beginning in 2017 to avoid reaching the overfishing threshold.
Because the stock of Pacific bluefin tuna, which is caught in the eastern, central and western Pacific Ocean, is overfished and overfishing is occurring, the Committee recommended continuation of IATTC’s 2012 harvest caps. The science made clear that the measures in the eastern Pacific alone could not recover the species, which also needs current measures in the Western Pacific aimed at reducing mortality of juvenile and adult bluefin to remain in place.
Other issues reviewed included mahi mahi stocks, sharks, seabirds taken as bycatch, an increase in observer coverage on commercial vessels over the next five years, management measures for FADs and the recently passed Port State Agreement (PSA). The PSA provides the means to keep illegally caught, unreported and unregulated fish from being brought into U.S. ports and entering trade.