Ecosystem Considerations

Anon (2017) Ecosystem Considerations. In: IATTC - 8th Meeting of the Scientific Advisory Committee. IATTC-SAC-08-07a, La Jolla, California

The 1995 FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries stipulates that States and users of living aquatic resources should conserve aquatic ecosystems and it provides that management of fisheries should ensure the conservation not only of target species, but also of species belonging to the same ecosystem or associated with or dependent upon the target species1. In 2001, the Reykjavik Declaration on Responsible Fisheries in the Marine Ecosystem elaborated these principles with a commitment to incorporate an ecosystem approach into fisheries management. Consistent with these instruments, one of the functions of the IATTC under the 2003 Antigua Convention is to “adopt, as necessary, conservation and management measures and recommendations for species belonging to the same ecosystem and that are affected by fishing for, or dependent on or associated with, the fish stocks covered by this Convention, with a view to maintaining or restoring populations of such species above levels at which their reproduction may become seriously threatened”. Consequently, the IATTC has taken account of ecosystem issues in many of its decisions, and this report on the offshore pelagic ecosystem of the tropical and subtropical Pacific Ocean, which is the habitat of tunas and billfishes, has been available since 2003 to assist in making its management decisions. This section provides a coherent view, summarizing what is known about the direct impact of the fisheries upon various species and species groups of the ecosystem, and reviews what is known about the environment and about other species that are not directly impacted by the fisheries but may be indirectly impacted by means of predator-prey interactions in the food web. This review does not suggest objectives for the incorporation of ecosystem considerations into the management of tuna or billfish fisheries, nor any new management measures. Rather, its prime purpose is to offer the Commission the opportunity to ensure that ecosystem considerations are part of its agenda. It is important to remember that the view that we have of the ecosystem is based on the recent past; we have almost no information about the ecosystem before exploitation began. Also, the environment is subject to change on a variety of time scales, including the well-known El Niño fluctuations and more recently recognized longer-term changes, such as the Pacific Decadal Oscillation and other climate changes. In addition to reporting the catches of the principal species of tunas and billfishes, the staff has reported the bycatches of non-target species that are either retained or discarded. In this section, data on these bycatches are presented in the context of the effect of the fishery on the ecosystem. Unfortunately, while relatively good information is available for the tunas and billfishes, information for the entire fishery is not available. The information is comprehensive for large (carrying capacity greater than 363 metric tons) purse seiners that carry observers under the Agreement on the International Dolphin Conservation Program (AIDCP), and information on retained catches is also reported for other purse seiners, pole-and-line vessels, and much of the longline fleet. Some information is available on sharks that are retained by parts of the longline fleet. Information on retained and discarded non-target species is reported for large purse-seiners, and is available for very few trips of smaller ones. There is little information available on the bycatches and discards for other fishing vessels.