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Oceans and fisheries
News announcement16 May 2023Directorate-General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries

Fisheries: agreement reached on sustainable management of bigeye tuna in the Indian Ocean

Tropical turquoise water and blue sky ©ancamilushev/
Tropical turquoise water and blue sky

The 27th annual meeting of the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC), that took place from 8 to 12 May 2023 in Mauritius, delivered some important results for sustainable fisheries in the Indian Ocean and concluded in the adoption of 9 important conservation and management measures.

Sustainable management of tropical tuna species

The EU welcomes the adoption of a measure to ensure the sustainable management for the bigeye tuna.

The measure introduces clear catch limits for all countries fishing in the area to ensure that the global quota will not be exceeded. Furthermore, special provisions were agreed to enable coastal states to be able to develop their own fisheries. The EU agreed to contribute the most to the catch reduction, reducing EU catches by 18.7% against the 2017-2021 declared catch average.

Unfortunately, no agreement could be reached on yellowfin tuna, nor on setting catch limits for skipkjack tuna. The EU regrets this and hopes that progress can be made on the management of these stocks as well as soon as possible.

Compliance with existing rules

Another success is the adoption of the long-standing proposal of the EU to improve the compliance process of the IOTC. After reiterated EU proposals to amend the rules of the Compliance Committee, the IOTC finally agreed to this important step forward to make sure that fishing activities are conducted in accordance with applicable laws, regulations, and conservation measures. Moreover, the proposal supports IOTC countries to identify the priority areas where compliance is to be improved.

Protection of ecosystems

Additionally, the IOTC adopted an important measure to protect seabirds, and cetaceans from adverse impacts of the tuna fisheries. The measure to protect cetaceans was co-sponsored by the EU. These measures reinforce the “ecosystem approach” taken by the IOTC, that aims to take into consideration the whole ecosystem when managing the fisheries.

Electronic monitoring of catches for a better scientific data collection

The IOTC adopted a proposal co-sponsored by the EU to adopt minimum electronic monitoring standards (electronic monitoring system - EMS - or Remote Electronic Monitoring - REM).

The IOTC is the first regional fisheries management organisation (RFMO) that adopts such standards. This will allow to raise the observer coverage in the near future, something that was not possible with the sole use of human observers (half of the catches in IOTC are taken by artisanal vessels).

No resolution yet on fish aggregating devices

The EU regrets that, once again, the IOTC has not been able to agree on a much-needed new resolution for the management of drifting fish aggregating devices (FADs). The EU proposed a new resolution that addressed all the relevant aspects of the FAD fishery, including tackling plastic pollution to limiting the number of FADs. The proposal would have covered all fleets fishing in the region under a single management plan.

The objective was to replace and improve Resolution 23/02, which was adopted in the February special session of IOTC, but to which most of the members fishing on drifting FADs have objected. The EU believes that measures on FAD management are needed and continues to extend an open invitation to IOTC members to enter into dialogue to find a solution acceptable to all, which would have a real impact on the ground.

No boarding and inspection measures for vessels in the high seas

The EU regrets that the EU proposal to establish a scheme for the boarding and inspection of vessels in the high seas could not be adopted, in spite of enjoying very wide support. The EU will continue its efforts to find an understanding with all parties before the next annual meeting.


The Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) is the regional fisheries management organisation (RFMO) mandated to manage the fisheries on tuna and tuna-like species in the Indian Ocean and adjacent seas. It was established in 1993 and entered into force in 1996.

It is an intergovernmental organisation gathering the countries bordering the Indian Ocean and the countries having an interest in the tuna fisheries in the area.  The objectives are to promote cooperation among its members for the conservation and optimal utilisation of the tuna stocks in the area and to ensure the establishment of a sustainable fisheries in the region. To achieve these objectives, IOTC embers meet annually, discuss and adopt measures for the conservation and management of tuna and tuna-like species.

The EU became a member of IOTC in 1995. The other members of IOTC are Australia, Bangladesh, China, Comoros, Eritrea, France on behalf of its overseas territories, India, Indonesia, Iran, Japan, Kenya, Korea, Madagascar, Malaysia, Maldives, Mauritius, Mozambique, Oman, Pakistan, Philippines, Seychelles, Somalia, Sri Lanka, South Africa, Sudan, Tanzania, Thailand, the United Kingdom and Yemen.

About RFMOs: Countries with fishing interests in a given geographical area form specific RFMOs. The organisations are open both to countries in the region (‘coastal states’) and countries that have interests in those fisheries (‘distant water fishing nations’). While some RFMOs have a purely advisory role, most have management powers to set catch and fishing effort limits, technical measures, and control obligations. Today, RFMOs cover the majority of the world’s seas. They can broadly be divided into RFMOs focussing only on the management of highly migratory fish stocks, notably tuna, (‘tuna-RFMOs’) such as IOTC and RFMOs that manage other fish stocks (i.e. pelagic or demersal) in a more specific area.

The EU, represented by the Commission, plays an active global role by participating to 18 RFMOs. This makes the EU one of the most prominent actors in RFMOs worldwide, enabling it to promote international ocean governance and the sustainability of international fisheries.

More information

Regional fisheries management organisations (RFMOs)

Documents of the 27th annual meeting of the IOTC

European Commission proposals for the IOTC meeting