The Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) has recently published an updated resolution on the conservation of marine turtles. Resolution 12/04 which was adopted by the Commission at its last meeting held in Freemantle, Australia, in April 2012, supersedes an earlier recommendation (05/08) and resolution (09/06) on the same topic.
Notably, the new resolution draws attention to the IOTC Scientific Committee’s concern “that the lack of data from Contracting Parties and cooperating non-contracting Parties (CPCs) on the interactions and mortality of marine turtles from fisheries under the mandate of the IOTC undermines the ability to estimate levels of turtle bycatch and consequently IOTC’s capacity to respond and manage adverse effects of fishing on marine turtles”.
The new resolution clarifies that it applies to all fishing vessels on the IOTC Record of Fishing Vessels, and reinforces the need for CPCs to report annually to the IOTC Secretariat all interactions and mortalities of marine turtles in fisheries under the IOTC mandate.
Resolution 12/04 also addresses a number of relatively minor shortcomings in its predecessor and recognises progress that the IOTC Secretariat has made in the last two years to develop Marine Turtle Identification Cards (in cooperation with IOSEA and other collaborators), including handling guidelines for fishermen. Among other things, the resolution now calls for the development of improved FAD designs to reduce the incidence of entanglement of marine turtles, including the use of biodegradable materials; and its provisions on safe handling of accidentally captured marine turtles now apply to all species, not only hard shelled turtles. Leatherback turtles were excluded from previous consideration, apparently because of concerns raised by Japan about the practicality of fishermen bringing on board large animals.
It remains to be seen whether the latest iteration of an IOTC marine turtle resolution or recommendation will produce a better result than its forerunners. It could be argued that the former Resolution 09/06 was already quite comprehensive, and that time spent dressing up its provisions around the edges has only deferred resolution of the more fundamental issue: the failure of IOTC member States to make meaningful progress towards its implementation (or even reporting on its state of implementation).
For its part, IOSEA’s Online Reporting Facility continues to serve as a repository for information provided by its 33 Signatory States concerning fisheries-turtles interactions, as well as related mitigation measures. The IOSEA and IOTC Secretariats are expected to intensify their collaboration this year, notably through collaboration on the preparation of an Ecological Risk Assessment for marine turtles. More details will be provided in due course.
The full text of Resolution 12/04, which takes effect on 27 August 2012, can be found in a special section of the IOSEA website devoted to relevant resolutions and other decisions of various fisheries management organizations.