The Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) is an intergovernmental organisation mandated to manage highly migratory fisheries resources 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 sustainable use and development of tuna and tuna-like fisheries.
The Agreement for the Establishment of the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (the Agreement) was adopted by the FAO Council at its 105th Session in Rome on 25 November 1993. The Agreement entered into force on 27 March 1996. Australia deposited its instrument of accession on 13 November 1996.
The tuna resources in the Indian Ocean are the third largest in the world and make a significant contribution to food security throughout the region. The value of Indian Ocean tuna resources is estimated to be between US$2-3 billion annually. Sustainable use of the tuna and tuna-like resources of the Indian Ocean is one of the key economic growth prospects for developing coastal States in the region as well as being a crucial source of animal protein.
Approximately half the tuna caught in the Indian Ocean region is by small-scale artisanal fishing fleets within the exclusive economic zones of coastal States.
Australia engages in the IOTC as a responsible regional partner to: meet our international obligations to conserve and manage highly migratory fish stocks; ensure continued access and future development opportunities for the Australian fishing industry; and prevent any significant adverse impacts on the marine environment from fishing.
Australian fisheries targeting tuna and billfish in the Agreement Area are primarily the pelagic longline fisheries – Western and Eastern Tuna and Billfish Fisheries; and the purse seine fisheries – Eastern and Western Skipjack Fisheries and the Southern Bluefin Tuna Fishery. For further information regarding these fisheries visit the AFMA website.
Australia is a major coastal state within the Agreement Area, and is demonstrating sound stewardship through having in place a stringent management regime that aims to ensure the sustainability of its industry’s operations. Australia has been active with other members in investigating ways to improve the IOTC’s performance, including addressing recommendations of the 2009 performance review panel on ways to strengthen the IOTC’s effectiveness, including working to ensure that measures adopted by the IOTC recognise the rights of coastal States in a manner consistent with international law and ensuring long-term conservation and sustainable use of living marine resources.
Australia continues to encourage participation in the IOTC of all fishing states and entities that operate in the Indian Ocean, and to ensure appropriate cooperation is maintained between the IOTC and other regional fisheries bodies, including the Commission for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna (CCSBT) and the Southern Indian Ocean Fisheries Agreement (SIOFA). For the past three years Australia has led a meeting of coastal states immediately prior to IOTC annual meetings to improve capacity and understanding of ten fisheries issues, including measures proposed at IOTC meetings.
Membership of IOTC is open to Indian Ocean coastal countries and to countries or regional economic integration organisations which are members of the United Nations or one of its specialised agencies and are fishing for tuna in the Indian Ocean.
Current IOTC members are Australia, Belize, China, Comoros, Eritrea, European Union, France, Guinea, India, Indonesia, Islamic Republic of Iran, Japan, Kenya, Republic of Korea, Madagascar, Malaysia, Maldives, Mauritius, Mozambique, Sultanate of Oman, Pakistan, Philippines, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Tanzania, Thailand, United Kingdom, Vanuatu and Yemen.
There are currently three Cooperating non-Contracting Parties to the IOTC – Djibouti, Senegal and South Africa who are not yet members of the IOTC. Taiwan, a major distant water fishing entity, is not a member of the United Nations and is ineligible for membership but cooperatively participates at the IOTC.
Annual Sessions of the Commission are normally held in the first quarter of the year. The IOTC Scientific Committee meets annually several months prior to the Commission meeting in order for Commission members to act on the most recent scientific advice. Several working party meetings are held throughout the year as required.
More information is available on the IOTC website.