International Whaling Commission activities relevant to the assessment of cetacean bycatch in the Indian Ocean
The International Whaling Commission (IWC) continues to address several themes relevant to the assessment of cetacean bycatch in tuna fisheries of the Indian Ocean (IO) through its Scientific and Conservation Committees. The IWC Bycatch Mitigation Initiative (BMI) and the Sub-committee on Nondeliberate Human Induced Mortality of cetaceans (HIM) in particular concentrate on improving the monitoring and mitigation of cetacean bycatch in fisheries around the world, adopting numerous recommendations that include the IO. The BMI, the IWC’s Global Whale Entanglement Response Network and Stranding Initiative share expertise and assist countries by providing capacity building programmes to monitor and assess cetacean bycatch, prevent entanglement of large cetaceans and develop entanglement/stranding response capability. The IWC engages with local, regional and international organisations, such as the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). In early 2023, the IWC agreed on a 4-year capsule project within the GEF/FAO Common Oceans ABNJ Tuna project Phase 2. This capsule aims to collaboratively advance efforts to assess and address cetacean bycatch in tuna fisheries across two ocean basins, notably the western central Pacific and the Indian Oceans. The capsule’s activities fall within the following themes: assessing cetacean bycatch and data gaps to inform Regional Fisheries Management Organisations (RFMOs); building regional capacity and awareness on cetacean bycatch and available solutions; and collaboratively developing recommendations to address cetacean bycatch for consideration by multi-lateral environmental and fisheries agreements. This paper describes the activities planned for the IO as part of this capsule. The IOTC is a named partner in this capsule, and a Cooperation Agreement was signed by the two organisations. IWC seeks advice from the IOTC on how to continue to strengthen collaboration and ensure the workplans of IOTC and IWC are complementary while also meeting the objectives of the capsule project.