By Shezna Shums
The 15th session of the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) began in Colombo yesterday with three Ministers gracing the event, which will run until Monday.
Fisheries Minister Dr. Rajith Senaratne, Economic Development Minister Basil Rajapaksa and External Affairs Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris officiated at the ceremonial opening.
This is following the eighth session of the compliance committee which was held earlier this month.
This meeting will be held in Sri Lanka for the first time and is being attended by over 250 delegates and observers from nearly 35 countries in the Indian Ocean Region and beyond.
Representatives from major Distant Water Fishing Nations such as Europe, Japan, Korea, France, Taiwan and China will also participate along with coastal countries of the Indian Ocean.
The meeting will help promote co operation among IOTC members as well as help member countries bring forward their issues regarding fishing management.
Sri Lanka has been actively involved in the Tuna resource management activities for over 50 years with the establishment of the Indian Ocean Fishery Commission (IOFC) for the Management of Indian Ocean Tuna in 1968.
The IOTC is an intergovernmental organisation that is mandated to manage tuna and tuna-like species in the Indian Ocean and adjacent seas.
Current membership of 28 includes Australia, Belize, China, Comoros, Eritrea, European Union, France, Guinea, India, Indonesia, IR Iran, Japan, Kenya, Republic of Korea, Madagascar, Malaysia, Mauritius, Sultanate of Oman, Pakistan, Philippines, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Tanzania, Thailand, United Kingdom and Vanuatu.
Co-operating non-contracting parties which has no voting right includes the Maldives, Senegal, South Africa, and Uruguay.
Representative from Sri Lanka at the IOTC meeting is Ministry of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Development-Development and Planning Division, Director General-Technical, Indra Ranasinghe who told the Daily FT that following recent technical sessions in Nairobi the IOTC was asked by the majority of members to finalise the allocation and criteria according to the guiding principles provided by them.
The proposals put forward by five countries were not providing adequate criteria for the Indian Ocean coastal countries.
Ranasinghe said that by 2012 they hope to see the allocation and criteria in accordance with the guiding principles taken into consideration.
Furthermore he said that other issues which are equally important should also be addressed such as illegal fishing and unreported and unregulated fishing and destructive fishing practises, which jeopardise sustainable fish stock levels within the Indian Ocean.
Other matters that will be brought up are new memberships and the scientific centre findings among others.
Indian Ocean Marine Affairs Co-operation (IOMAC) Secretariat has put forward these recommendations following the meeting with coastal countries within the Indian Ocean which was held in February this year.
Recommendations to be adopted at the Ministerial level sessions include the urgency for dealing effectively with immediate and long-term tuna management measures; particularly, to Indian Ocean coastal States and like-minded developing coastal States, having indigenous marine fisheries.
Secondly for special attention to be given by Indian Ocean coastal States, (particularly Contracting Parties and Co-operating Non- Contracting Parties,) to quota management measures which are being proposed through the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC), especially those which may adversely affect the interests and development aspirations of developing coastal States.
The third recommendation is to implement measures to ensure the long-term sustainability of the Indian Ocean tuna stocks by rationalising fishing power and controlling of industrial scale fishing in the Indian Ocean through fleet restructuring. Such measures would include: Limiting of the gross registered tonnage (GRT) of vessels to a maximum of 1000 GRT, and restriction of the number and total tonnage of fishing vessels as well as the restriction of the use of large scale purse-seines, in the same manner as large scale drift netting was prohibited.
The fourth recommendation was to immediately adopt measures for the cessation of industrial scale purse seining, using floating (drifting) fish aggregating devices (FADs) in the Indian Ocean, following the Pacific example.
Other recommendations were to adopt the criteria set out in the alternative joint proposal prepared by the official session of participating States at this meeting and that the States attending this meeting to continue working together with IOMAC, along with other invited like-minded States to further refine, finalise and successfully negotiate a broadly acceptable and equitable quota system through the IOTC.