Sri Lanka in danger of losing out on tuna exports

Thursday, 10 February 2011 00:01 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}


By Shezna Shums 

The Consultation of Indian Ocean Fisheries and Tuna currently being held from 7-12 February at the Galadari Hotel brought together experts from the countries of Thailand, Sudan, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Kenya, Iran, Indonesia and Bangladesh to discuss proposals that have to be submitted to the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission in order to decide on how to divide the fishing quotas regarding Yellow fin Tuna and Big Eye Tuna.

Chairman of the Consultation Hussain Hassan, who is also the Minister of State Fisheries and Agriculture in Maldives, chaired the event along with the Secretary General Hiran Jayawardena.

Currently three proposals from the European Union, Seychelles and Indonesia have been prepared, however their method of allocation is unacceptable to some countries within the Indian Ocean. Such proposals show that the proposed quota allocated to Sri Lanka is a fraction when compared to the actual production of tuna in Sri Lanka. 

Sri Lanka has a vote at the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC), while the Maldives does not; however the fact is that the coastal countries within the Indian Ocean do not adequately participate and put forward their proposals and make a presentation at the IOTC, which then results in a disadvantaged position for the Indian Ocean coastal countries when it comes to fishing of Yellow fin Tuna and Big Eye Tuna.

The reason why Sri Lanka and other coastal countries within the Indian Ocean have to participate at the IOTC is to ensure that they receive a quota that suits the relevant country’s annual need for fish, keeping within the Total Allowable Catch (TAC) which affects all countries.

The annual TAC within the Indian Ocean for Yellow fin Tuna is 350, 000 tonnes and for Big Eye Tuna is 110,000 tonnes per annum.

The question on how to divide this quantity towards the Indian Ocean coastal countries and the European countries is the key issue. 

The factors to be considered are the number of countries, the effect it has on the individual country’s economic development, if it is a developing or developed country, the country’s method of fishing, the time factor and several other aspect s will be considered.

“These factors are subjective and the formula for allocating a quota has also to be consistent with the convention’s guidelines,” said the Chairman.

This is the first time that such a meeting of Indian Ocean Coastal Countries is taking place to prepare for the upcoming IOTC meeting.

The present discussions in Colombo are only within the Indian Ocean Coastal Countries and the Chairman believes that there is power in presenting proposals as a group to gain an advantage for the Indian Ocean Coastal Countries. “We need to be together to achieve our common objectives and be in a better position,” said the Chairman.

The next meeting regarding this issue is to take place in Kenya from 16 - 18 February.

One of the factors affecting the stocks of Yellow fin and Big Eye Tuna in the Indian Ocean is that European Countries have huge fleets of ships and use highly advanced and questionable methods of fishing, which leaves depleted stocks of tuna for the rest of the countries.

The European fleets of ships also take advantage of fishing in the Indian Ocean to avoid the problem of Somali pirates now, and results in a large number of European ships fishing for Yellow fin and Big Eye Tuna in the Indian Ocean. The depleted stocks of tuna not only affect the catch of other countries but also cause a long term problem of diminishing tuna shoals in the ocean. 

According to the Chairman, these fleets use satellite technology which allows them to see where the shoal of fish are located and even their mode of catching the fish are highly aggressive which does not allow young fish to escape. The young fish are important to for re production and growth of fish stocks in the ocean.

The Sri Lanka delegation at this meeting is headed by Director General, Development and Planning Division, Ministry of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Development, Indra Ranasinghe who stated that the country needs 22 kilos of fish per capita annually, and the current figure stands at 11.9 kilos per capita.

“The World Health Organisation norm for protein intake per person is 22.2 kilos

So there is a deficiency and we have to enhance our fish production and ensure the nutritional requirement is fulfilled,” he explained.

Currently fishing allocation is provided by historic catch figures; however this is not enough and factors such as socio economic and other principles have to be considered when a quota system is to be established to ensure that the countries have an adequate supply of Yellow fin and Big Eye Tuna.

The Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) is an intergovernmental organisation mandated to manage tuna and tuna-like species in the Indian Ocean and adjacent seas. 

Its objective is to promote cooperation among its Members with a view to ensuring, through appropriate management, the conservation and optimum utilisation of stocks and encouraging sustainable development of fisheries based on such stocks.   

The Consultation of Indian Ocean Fisheries and Tuna is convened by the Indian Ocean Marine Co- operation (IOMAC) Secretariat, hosted by The Ministry of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Development (MFARD) in cooperation with the National Aquatic Resource Development Agency (NARA).