4. The Indian Ocean Fishery Commission (IOFC) was established by Resolution 2/48 of the FAO Council at its Forty-eighth Session in September 1967. The Council in setting up the Commission noted that "the Indian Ocean is an area as yet inadequately served by international fishery bodies" and that "the need for collective action for the development and rational utilization of the fishery resources of the area had been established". The mandate of the Commission is:
(a) To promote, assist and coordinate national programmes over the entire field of fishery development and conservation;
(b) to promote research and development activities in the area through international sources, in particular through international aid programmes;
(c) to examine management problems, with special emphasis on the management of offshore resources.
5. Its area of competence is the Indian Ocean and adjacent seas excluding the Antarctic area. The species covered by the Commission are all living marine resources. Its membership is open to all Member Nations and Associate Members of FAO. At its First Session held in Rome in September 1968, the Commission reviewed the state of knowledge of the inshore, offshore and oceanic fisheries of the Indian Ocean as well as the status of fishery statistics in the region. The Commission decided that the improvement of fishery statistics for the region was a matter of fundamental priority. It also agreed that high priority should be given to the management of heavily exploited stocks.
6. At its First Session, the Commission established the Committee for the Management of Indian Ocean Tuna the membership of which consisted of Australia, India, Indonesia, Japan, Korea (Republic of), Sri Lanka, Tanzania and USA. The Committee for the Management of Indian Ocean Tuna was given the following mandate:
"To assist IOFC in its consideration of the steps required to introduce management measures for heavily exploited stocks of tuna when these measures are found necessary".
The Committee held its First Session in Rome, in October 1970.
7. In November of that year, the Indo-Pacific Fishery Commission (IPFC) (Fourteenth Session, 18-27 November 1970, Bangkok, Thailand), now Asia-Pacific Fishery Commission (APFIC) , also decided to establish the IPFC Special Committee on Management of Indo-Pacific Tuna. From 1971 to 1980 the two Committees held six Joint Sessions as follows:
1st joint meeting of the Committees: 22-23 April 1971, Rome, Italy
2nd joint meeting of the Committees: 5-6 October 1972, Colombo, Sri Lanka
3rd joint meeting of the Committees: 18-19 July 1975, Mombasa, Kenya
4th joint meeting of the Committees: 29-30 October 1976, Colombo, Sri Lanka
5th joint meeting of the Committees: 3-4 March 1978, Manila, Philippines
6th joint meeting of the Committees: 21-22 February 1980, Perth, Australia
At its Twenty-first Session in 1984, the IPFC decided that in view of the scientific information concerning the low degree of interaction between the Indian Ocean and Pacific Tuna stocks, it was unnecessary to continue the practice of convening joint meetings.
8. During this period, the review and assessment of the state of tuna in the areas covered by the two Committees were based mainly on the reports of the IOFC/IPFC Ad hoc Working Party of Scientists on Stock Assessment of Tuna, reports of several expert consultations and workshops on various aspects relating to tuna and the ad hoc meetings and reports by some members on their tuna activities. By 1980, the IOFC Committee for the Management of Indian Ocean Tuna had acquired substantial information on the state of tuna and the trends of tuna fisheries in the region. Apart from monitoring tuna fishing activities and reviewing the state of tuna, the Committees did not recommend any specific management measures although they repeatedly emphasized that the longline fishery should be reduced in the Indian Ocean. The question of management of tuna and some form of proper arrangements was never off the agenda of the Committees.
9. At its Sixth Session (Perth, Australia, 1980), IOFC made the membership of the Committee open-ended so that any member of the Commission could become a member of the Committee. The terms of reference of the Committee were also revised at this Session:
(i) to review the state of the stocks of tuna, particularly in relation to the level of exploitation and likely development;
(ii) to consider the boundaries of the area that have to be taken into account in any management of tuna, bearing in mind particularly the movement of fish and fishing vessels;
(iii) to review measures that might be considered for the planning, management and development of the tuna fisheries and to suggest the administrative and other actions that would be required to put such measures into effect; and
(iv) to consider arrangements for ensuring the continuation and coordination of the necessary research and the continuing re-assessment of the state of the stocks.
The Committee did not resume its regular sessions until 1985. By then the Indo-Pacific Tuna Development and Management Programme which had become operational early in 1982 was in a position to provide information to and receive guidance from the Committee on most technical and scientific aspects related to Indian Ocean tuna.
10. Until the beginning of the 1980s, there was a gradual but steady increase in the catches of tuna and tuna-like species in the Indian Ocean. The fisheries consisted of small-scale or artisanal fisheries by coastal countries in the region as well as industrial fisheries from Japan, the Republic of Korea and Taiwan (Province of China). Following the establishment of the 200 nautical miles Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ) most of the fisheries resources fell within the exclusive jurisdiction of coastal States. In order to have access to these resources many industrial fishing nations concluded fisheries agreements with coastal States, allowing them to fish in their EEZs. This was particularly significant in the case of tuna fisheries in the Indian Ocean. In the early eighties, following the conclusion of a number of bilateral fisheries agreements between the EC and the coastal countries in the region, the EC tuna fleet moved to the western part of the Indian Ocean in substantial
numbers. Port Victoria in Seychelles became, and still remains, the most important port for transhipment in the Western Indian Ocean.
11. The total catch of tuna and tuna-like species in the Indian Ocean rose steadily from around 150 000 t in the early 1960s to 238 616 t in 1975. They continued to rise from 306 905 t in 1980 to 566 231 in 1985 and again to 981 319 t in 1993 (see figure 1). The landings from the Western Indian Ocean (FAO Statistical Area 51) increased from 261 168 t in 1983 to 429 434 t in 1985 and again to 782 104 t in 1993.
12. Yellowfin and skipjack are the main two species targeted by distant-water fishing nations (DWFNs). In 1975 the total catch of yellowfin in the Indian Ocean was 28 390 t rising steadily to 34 064 t in 1980 and to 103 924 t in 1985, and increasing substantially to 349 935 t in 1993. During the same period, the total catch of skipjack rose from 35 165 t in 1975 to 45 835 t in 1980, to 141 475 t in 1985 and to 250 460 t in 1993 (see figure 2).
13. In the latter part of the seventies the need for coordination and implementation of tuna fishery development as well as management and investigation activities in the Indian and Pacific Oceans had been discussed by both IPFC and IOFC. At the Sixth Joint Meeting of the IOFC and IPFC Tuna Management Committees in 1980, it was recommended that funding should be sought to initiate such a broad coordination and implementation programme.
14. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) tuna project, based in Manila, Philippines, which ended in 1981 provided a professional officer and a consultant to begin investigation of data availability and quality in the coastal and island nations of the area and to review the need for a broad-based development and management programme. The preparatory assistance phase of project INT/81/034 recruited a Programme Director and Statistician and provided the necessary equipment to establish a permanent headquarters for the project in Colombo, Sri Lanka in early 1982. These activities led to the UNDP funding of an Indo-Pacific Tuna Development and Management Programme which ended in June 1984 and then periodically extended. Since 1990 funding has come entirely from a cost sharing arrangement between participating countries and the EC under the UNDP Programme. The main objective of IPTP has been to establish a tuna data centre as a basis for the management and development of tuna fisheries in the region.
15. To complement the IPTP, FAO established a Trust Fund in 1980. A Five-Year Project, "Investigation on Indian Ocean and Western Pacific Small Tuna Resources (GCP/RAS/099/JPN)", was developed and Japanese funding was secured. Since then the project has been funded by Japan and other donors as well as participating countries.
Source: IPTP, Reports of Expert Consultations on Stock Assessment of Tuna in the Indian Ocean
16. Since it became operational, IPTP has contributed substantially to the work of the IOFC Committee for the Management of Indian Ocean Tuna which resumed its regular sessions in 1985. Until the last session of the Committee, which was held in 1990, IPTP acted as its scientific body undertaking various activities during intersessional periods and organizing expert consultations on Indian Ocean tunas prior to the Committee's meetings. The Expert Consultations have been held regularly, the latest of which was held in Colombo, Sri Lanka, in September 1995.