In response to calls from the international community for a review of the performance of Regional Fisheries Management Organisations (RFMOs), the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) agreed in 2007 to implement a process of Performance Review. The IOTC formed a Review Panel, consisting of an independent legal expert, an independent scientific expert, six IOTC Members and a non-governmental organisations observer, which concluded its report to the Commission in January 2009. The Panel’s review was based on the criteria developed as a result of a joint meeting of tuna RFMOs, Kobe, Japan, 2007 and concentrated on the following issues:
Adequacy of the Agreement for the Establishment of the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC Agreement) relative to current principles of fisheries management,
Consistency between scientific advice and conservation and management measures adopted,
Effectiveness of control measures established by the IOTC; and Efficiency and transparency of financial and administrative management.
KEY FINDINGS OF THE PERFORMANCE REVIEW PANEL
I. The legal framework of the IOTC Agreement:
The analysis of the legal text of the IOTC Agreement identified a series of gaps and weaknesses which can be summarized as follows:
The IOTC Agreement is outdated as it does not take account of modern principles for fisheries management. The absence of concepts such as the precautionary approach and an ecosystem based approach to fisheries management are considered to be major weaknesses. The lack of clear delineation of the functions of the Commission or flag State and port State obligations provide examples of significant impediments to the effective and efficient functioning of the Commission.
The limitation on participation to this RFMO, deriving from IOTC’s legal status as an Article XIV Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) body, conflicts with provisions of United Nations Fish Stocks Agreement (UNFSA) and prevents major fishing players in the Indian Ocean from discharging their obligations to cooperate in the work of the Commission.
The IOTC relationship to FAO, most notably in the budgetary context, negatively affects the efficiency of the work of the Commission, with neither Members nor the Secretariat in full control of the budget. This also raises questions relating to the level of transparency in the Commission’s financial arrangements.
The Panel recommends that the IOTC Agreement either be amended or replaced by a new instrument. The decision on whether to amend the Agreement or replace it should be made taking into account the full suite of deficiencies identified in the Review.
II. The criteria-based analysis of the performance of the Commission:
The analysis based on the Performance Review criteria highlighted numerous weaknesses in the workings of the Commission, of which the most important have been identified as:
High levels of uncertainty
The quantitative data provided for many of the stocks under the IOTC Agreement is very limited. This is due to lack of compliance, a large proportion of catches being taken by artisanal fisheries, for which there is very limited information, and lack of cooperation of non-Members of the IOTC. The data submitted to the Commission is frequently of poor quality. This contributes to high levels of uncertainty concerning the status of many stocks under the IOTC mandate.
Poor record of compliance and limited tools for addressing non-compliance
Low levels of compliance with IOTC measures and obligations are commonplace. The Commission to date has taken very limited actions to remedy this situation – there are currently no sanctions/penalties for non-compliance in place. Moreover, the list of illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) vessels applies to non-Members only.
Special requirements of developing States
Many developing States are experiencing serious capacity/infrastructure constraints which impede their ability to comply with their obligations, especially in terms of data collection, reporting and processing. A number of developing States also lack appropriate scientific expertise and, even where such expertise is available, budgetary constraints limit their participation in Commission meetings,
particularly those of the Scientific Committee and working parties.
III. In light of these findings, and in addition to the specific recommendations made against each of the criteria, the Review Panel draws the Commission’s attention to the following overarching issues
Addressing uncertainty in data and in the stock assessments is one of the most fundamental and urgent actions required to improve the performance of the Commission. This will require a variety of actions of which the most important are: application of scientific assessment methods appropriate to the data/information available, establishing a regional scientific observer programme to enhance data collection for target and non-target species, and improving data collection and reporting capacity of developing States. Also engaging non-Members actively fishing in the area is of critical importance to addressing uncertainty. Equally important are developing a framework to take action in the face of uncertainty in scientific advice and enhancement of functioning and participation in the Scientific Committee and subsidiary bodies.
It is imperative to strengthen the ability of the Compliance Committee to monitor non-compliance and advise the Commission on actions which might be taken in response to non-compliance. Sanction mechanisms for non-compliance and provisions for follow-up on infringements should be developed. The Resolution on the establishment of the IUU list should be amended to allow for the inclusion of vessels flagged to Members.
Special requirements of developing States
Increased financial support for capacity building should be provided to developing States. The Commission should enhance already existing funding mechanisms to build developing States’
capacity for data collection, processing and reporting, as well as technical and scientific capabilities. In this context, the possibility of establishing a special fund to facilitate participation in the Commission’s work, including subsidiary groups should be considered. Strengthening the Secretariat’s role/ability to undertake targeted capacity building should be explored.