A capacity building workshop to support the implementation of the Regional Observer Scheme of the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) was organized by the IOTC Secretariat in cooperation with the CMS Secretariat in Muscat from 18-22 October 2015. The Oman Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries hosted the workshop which was opened by Dr Ahmed Mohammed Al-Mazrouai, the Director General of Fisheries Resource Development. Dr Al-Mazrouai is the current Chairman of the IOTC Commission.
Recognizing that without good data sound fisheries management that also minimizes migratory marine species caught incidentally in fishing operations is not possible, five managers from each country took part in the 5-day workshop to learn from each other and from international experts about the elements of effective observer schemes. They also learned how to identify and, where possible, release migratory species such as marine turtles, cetaceans, sharks and seabirds caught incidentally in purse seines, on long lines and in gillnets. Training was designed to support implementation of national programmes that would increase capacity of the three countries to manage their tuna and tuna-like fisheries sustainably, minimize incidental catch of migratory species and ultimately help the countries provide fisheries and by-catch related data to the IOTC Secretariat to fulfill their IOTC reporting requirements. Minimizing by-catch would also assist the three countries in fulfilling their obligations either under CMS to which Iran and Pakistan are a Contracting Party as well as their responsibilities under the CMS Indian Ocean South East Asian Marine Turtle Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that all three countries have signed.
Consistent and accurate reporting underpinned by high quality and complete data assists the IOTC Commission in making scientifically based decisions in relation to the various fish stocks it oversees. Information has been particularly lacking in relation to both coastal and off-shore gillnet fisheries which are rapidly expanding in the IOTC region. The situation is challenging for Oman, Pakistan and Iran where upwards of 70% of the catch is from artisanal fishers operating from relatively small boats numbering in the tens of thousands often in difficult operational conditions. The sheer number of boats complicates efforts by governments to establish and resource effective on-board observer schemes. Workshop participants discussed how technology may be able to assist as well as fishers can be encouraged to minimize by-catch of migratory marine species.
Working closely with the IOTC Secretariat the CMS Secretariat identified three experts to act as resource people to the meeting: Robert Baldwin (CMS IOSEA Marine Turtle MOU Advisory Committee member), John Carlson (CMS Sharks MOU Advisory Committee Chair) and shark expert Rima Jabado (Gulf Elasmobranch Project). The latter were financially supported by the CMS Sharks MOU. They were accompanied by Tim Collins (IUCN Marine Mammal Specialist Group and the Wildlife Conservation Society) and Moazzam Khan (WWF-Pakistan). The workshop participants were exposed to the by-catch issue, safe handling and release of marine species, the identification of sharks, rays, marine turtles, and seabirds as well as best practice guidance to support implementation of IOTC’s observer scheme. Lyle Glowka, Executive Coordinator, CMS Office – Abu Dhabi, attended the workshop and introduced participants to the Convention, as well as the work of the CMS Dugong MOU, IOSEA Marine Turtles MOU, the Sharks MOU, and the Agreement on Albatross and Petrels on conservation and by-catch.
CMS’s contribution to the workshop is one example of the long-standing strong working relationship between IOTC, CMS and the CMS Family of instruments to help ensure the conservation and management of CMS listed marine species caught incidentally within the IOTC agreement area. Building synergies between IOTC, the Convention and CMS Instruments will help the respective members of each organization - a significant number of which are the same countries –minimize the by-catch of marine migratory species thereby supporting IOTC and Convention requirements including CMS Resolutions 6.2 and 9.18 (By-catch) and Resolution 10.14 (By-catch in Gillnet Fisheries), Resolution 11.20 (Conservation of Sharks and Rays) as well as mandates under the Convention, the CMS Sharks MOU and IOSEA to cooperate with regional fisheries management organizations such as IOTC.