At the end of September 2012, the EU–Madagascar Joint Committee for the implementation of the FPA met to adopt particular management measures governing the fishing activities of the EU long-line fleet targeting tuna and tuna-like species, in particular their associated catches of sharks, in order to effectively implement the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) recommendations in this regard.
The new measures include the regular embarking of observers on board EU long-liners, in order to provide accurate data on the composition of catches of targeted and associated species and by-catches. These statistics are to be forwarded to the Scientific Committee of the IOTC.
In accordance with IOTC recommendations and renewing provisions agreed a previous Joint Committee meeting, the fishing of the most vulnerable species of sharks is to be prohibited from 1 January 2013. In addition, following the recommendations of the Scientific Committee of the IOTC on fishing mortality rates, a maximum level for other sharks caught as associated species has been set at 200 tonnes per year for the whole EU fleet, which is lower than the average historical catches of sharks in the last 5 years.
The Joint Committee also set out plans for the use of the financial resources allocated by the EU to Madagascar to support its policy priorities for the development of the fisheries sector. The amount of €550,000 per year is to be allocated in order to strengthen monitoring activities and on-board observation.
This is the first time that such management measures for shark by-catches have been included in an FPA, although it is an issue that has been raised in many tuna FPAs. It is a most welcome development, which also shows that the EU and its partners are progressing towards developing a regional strategy for their tuna fisheries relations, taking RFMOs’ recommendations as a reference. It is also most welcome that special attention is being given to reinforcing monitoring activities and on-board observers, in order to ensure that the low maximum level of shark catches (200 tonnes) is duly respected.