EU Demand to Reduce 10% of Yellowfin Tuna Hits Exporters
By Sulochana Ramiah Mohan
Fish exporters charged that Sri Lanka’s main fishing exporting country, the European Union (EU) has cut 10% or reduced the import of yellowfin tuna products from 2019 because the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) has reported that there is a 94% probability that the Indian Ocean’s yellowfin tuna stock being overfished.
Member of the Advisory Committee to the IOTC of the Ministry of Fisheries, Sashini Fernando said the IOTC resolution is unfairly impacting Sri Lanka as Sri Lanka being a small-scale fishing fleet with multi-day longline vessels mostly below 15m in length and do not consist of mechanised line hauls.
Deep-set longline has been scientifically proven to be the most sustainable method of yellowfin tuna fishing as it doesn’t have a high number of juveniles or reproductively active fish in the catch, she said. She said the IOTC is continuing not to take tuna from Sri Lankans as demanded by the EU sustainable NGOs who are insisting on reducing the poaching from the Indian Ocean IOTC area.
This decision has impacted all exports of Yellowfin tuna from the Indian Ocean, Sri Lanka specifically, due to the negative publicity that longline fishing has received through competing markets. The IOTC states that the uncertainty of these statistical models that report the species being overfished is based on the lack of data reported as well as the migratory nature of the yellowfin tuna not being taken into consideration. Further, it must be noted MSY are generally calculated based on Temperate waters whereas in this case its Tropical waters and environments that must be principally taken into account in the case of Tuna Fisheries.
Due to this, Sri Lanka’s main fish export market which consists of Yellowfin tuna is currently and will continue facing the dire consequences of the IOTC implementing the Resolution 19/01 on an interim plan for rebuilding the Indian Ocean Yellowfin tuna stock in the IOTC area of competence. This also will be subject to a bad public image that Tuna imports from the IOTC area are overfished and will be questioned if sustainably sourced by International and European Consumers. The IOTC resolution stated that all countries in the IOTC area will have to adhere to the following restriction according to the gear types used in their tuna fishing fleet. But the Maldivian handlined Tuna and Pole and line Tuna is considered as other gear with the presumption that its more artisanal and impact is lower than specific gear mentioned.
It must be noted the main gear used in Sri Lanka for catching Tuna is a long line and gillnet fishery, for vessels 24 metres overall length and over, and those under 24 metres if they fish outside the EEZ as per Resolution 15/02 she added. Even though Sri Lanka has a high number of vessels in the fleet, along with the reduced catch rate and the artisanal nature of the vessels, Sri Lanka is subject to 10% cuts in Tuna fishing enforced reduction of catches while the Maldives is considered as Other Gears despite catches attributing to 12% of the total Tuna catch from the Indian Ocean, she further said.
The EU which has attributed to 19% of the total catch of Yellowfin tuna in the Indian ocean is subject to 10 % but the EU catches are mainly or mostly for trade e.g.: landing their catches in canneries situated in Thailand, Mauritius and Seychelles unlike coastal nations like Sri Lanka has the majority of the catch is for their own consumption. This shows the discrimination of gear type without considering circumstances such as nonmechanisation and size of the vessel, even catch rate should be questioned due to the impact of this IOTC resolution not only at a national level but at an international level.