The population of yellowfin tuna is increasingly reducing in the Indian Ocean due to overfishing, putting it at the risk of collapse. The Indian Ocean accounts for 30% of the world’s tuna catch. In 2018, one and half million metric tons of yellowfin tuna were caught worldwide, with a dock value of US$4.4 billion and an end value of almost US$16 billion. The yellowfin tuna fishing exceeded sustainable levels by 32% in 2020, exacerbating the continued declines in the Indian Ocean. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) listed yellowfin tuna as a “near threatened” species in its Red List.
Yellowfin tuna are highly migratory and are found throughout the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic Oceans, thus requiring international cooperation for their conservation and management. The Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) is the organization mandated with regional fisheries management from the east coast of Africa to the west coast of Australia. IOTC first acknowledged yellowfin tuna had been overfished in 2008, “the stock is very close to an overfished state, or already overfished.” The IOTC’s Scientific Committee in 2015 affirmed that “on the weight of evidence available in 2015, the yellowfin tuna stock is determined to be overfished and subject to overfishing”. Scientists have warned that yellowfin tuna stock could collapse by 2026 if nothing is done to control the fishing by IOTC member states. In 2019, Blue Marine Foundation urged IOTC and its member states to urgently implement a 25% catch reduction.
again criticize IOTC after its annual meeting from 16th to 20th May 2022. World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) expressed dissatisfaction with IOTC’s failure to control yellowfin tuna fishing, “For nearly a decade, the commission has a failed in its responsibility to sustainably manage yellowfin tuna in the Indian Ocean,” Umair Shahid, WWF Indian Ocean Tuna Lead. In 2021, IOTC agreed to reduce the total allowable catch (TAC) by setting a catch limit of 401,011 metric tones, which exceeded the maximum sustainable yield of 349,000 metric tones of yellowfin in the Indian Ocean. The 2022 catch limit of 403,000 metric tones continues to allow fishing at rates above the maximum sustainable yield. Early this year, IOTC’s Scientific Committee published a report projecting a catch limit of 301,000 MT in order to be confident the Indian Ocean’s yellowfin tuna stock will recover from previous overfishing. However, some IOTC member states which include; India, Oman, Somalia, Madagascar, Iran and Indonesia objected the yellowfin-rebuilding plan, derailing the efforts made by other 24 countries that agreed to the new measures.
Additionally, yellowfin tuna face a serious threat on methods of capture and at what age. Between 2015 and 2019, 94% of yellowfin tuna caught in the Indian Ocean purse seine fleet were juvenile exposing the species to a greater threat. Kenya wants more curbing on fishing devices such as fish aggregators which attract tunas and other species towards the net. Therefore, Kenya tabled a proposal to IOTC to improve the management of (dFADs) by foreign industrial fishing fleets to catch tuna in the Indian Ocean. The proposal is aimed at reducing the number of dFADs and includes a temporary ban on the use of such dFADs during the spawning times for yellowfin tuna.
The overfishing of yellowfin tuna and other tuna species poses a threat to the marine ecosystems and many coastal communities depending on them for food and income. Tunas are high predators in the marine food chain,thus maintaining a balance in the ocean environment.
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