With international tuna regulators headed for a major meeting in November, a coalition of seafood suppliers and environmental activists are supporting proposals for the first Pacific-wide harvest strategy to manage albacore stocks jointly. 

The 101st Session of the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC) will be held Aug. 7-11 in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. The commission’s agenda includes an amendment to the North Pacific albacore harvest strategy, a measure for South Pacific albacore, and proposals on electronic monitoring, FADs, harvest control rules, and a Vessel Monitoring System.

“Albacore tuna accounts for a significant chunk of the $40 billion-per-year global tuna market, and demand for this species is projected to grow. That’s why it is vital that fisheries managers work to ensure the sustainability of the albacore population,” wrote Esther Wozniak and Katy Hladki of the Pew Charitable Trusts’ international fisheries project in a recent commentary.

“Together, they can create the first Pacific-wide harvest strategy to manage the stock jointly. After years of research, evaluations, and negotiations, managers are now poised to adopt a full harvest strategy this year,” they wrote. 

In a statement Aug. 2, the Global Tuna Alliance, representing 49 seafood supply chain companies and retailers worldwide, said they welcome proposals to “advance science-based, sustainable management measures for albacore tuna stocks in the Eastern Pacific.

“However, whether these proposals are adopted at the meeting taking place between Aug. 7-11 August remains to be seen, with GTA Partners warning at a recent roundtable meeting that a lack of progress could have ramifications for their approach to sourcing in the region,” the group said. 

Pacific albacore tuna are two separate stocks. The North Pacific albacore and South Pacific albacore are managed by two regional fisheries management organizations (RFMOs): The Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission, which manages stocks in the eastern Pacific Ocean, and the Western-Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC).

“As shared stocks, the effectiveness of management measures is somewhat dependent on both Commissions working in tandem,” according to the GTA. 

“You can think of the situation like a door with two locks,” says Albert Arthur, the GTA’s director of outreach and engagement. “While WCPFC has one key, it also needs IATTC to turn its own key to unlock the measures we need for effective, sustainable management of Pacific albacore stocks.”

There is a harvest strategy now in place for the northern stock after last year’s IATTC meeting, according to the GTA.

“However, a crucial element of a harvest strategy – harvest control rules (HCRs) – were absent from the strategy,” the group says.

 In early July, the WCPFC northern committee amended their NP albacore harvest strategy to include HCRs, but “ahead of the August meeting, Canada, Japan, and the U.S. have tabled a proposal to IATTC to bring its harvest strategy in line with WCPFC,” the GTA says. 

“While albacore in the North Pacific Ocean are neither overfished nor experiencing overfishing – two of the distinct designations managers use to describe the state of a fishery – the adoption of a harvest strategy would establish precautionary management while the population is healthy, helping ensure that it will remain that way,” according to the Pew researchers. 

“Such stability is also good for the supply chain: Fishers, processors, wholesalers and retailers can reasonably anticipate how much fish is coming in, which means consumers will see fairly consistent prices at the point of sale – and know that the fish they buy was caught sustainably.”

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