IOTC members meeting in Mauritius did agree to the introduction of precautionary fishing limits, in principle, although the management scheme required to ensure this is achieved will not be negotiated until next year.
Measures were agreed for endangered whale sharks, cetaceans (such as whales, dolphins and porpoises) and oceanic white tip sharks that protect them from being intentionally caught in purse seine and longline fisheries, but other destructive shark fishing practices were allowed to continue, said a Greenpeace press release.
"Although a positive commitment was made – driven by the Maldives – to prevent stock depletion in the future, the current situation leaves little room for optimism. The Indian Ocean's tuna stocks hang in the balance as fishing intensifies and the region currently lacks the data needed to properly manage its fishing capacity and effort," Greenpeace International oceans campaigner Sari Tolvanen said.
"IOTC members failed to adopt a proposal to cut catches of albacore tuna by 30 per cent to protect the most vulnerable tuna species in the region, and to eliminate the wasteful practice of shark finning. Purse seining with destructive Fish Aggregation Devices (FADs) also continues with little control."
Greenpeace International warned that resistance from various coastal states to precautionary conservation measures and the creation of more exemptions for smaller scale fleets will jeopardise the sustainability of tuna fisheries and the livelihoods and food security of fishing communities.
"Countries such as India, Sri Lanka, Indonesia and Oman refuse to apply management measures to their smaller fleets. This is detrimental to the sustainability of those fleets and the people who depend on them," Tolvanen added.
The Greenpeace ship Esperanza has been documenting fishing activities in the Indian Ocean since March, observing suspicious transfers of fish at sea and exposing suspected illegal fishing in the protected Chagos waters.