According to the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC) it is likely that there is a continuous single population throughout the Pacific Ocean, with an exchange of individuals at a local level (IATTC 2018). Within Ecuador, the Instituto Nacional de Pesca (INP) is the official scientific body in charge of assessing the marine resources and then for advising and providing the recommended management measures to the Viceministerio de Acuacultura y Pesca. The IATTC is the entity which assess, regulates and manages tuna species in the Eastern Pacific Ocean, Ecuador is part of this agreement and responds to the resolutions adopted by this body. Ecuador participates in the IATTC process by providing statistical information from its fleet.
The current IATTC management plan for the period 2018-2020 has been established by the resolution C-17-02 (IATTC 2017). The measures developed here, apply to all longline vessels over 24 meters length overall that fish for yellowfin tuna, bigeye tuna, and skipjack tuna. These vessels are considered an industrial large-scale fleet (known as LSTLFVs) and according to the IATTC vessel database (available at: https://www.iattc.org/VesselDataBaseENG.htm), there are currently 20 Ecuadorian flag vessels registered to operate in the Convention area with a fish-holding capacity that ranges from 57 m³ up to 589 m³. Ecuador submits an annual report to IATTC which contains information from this longline fleet such as the total capture and its composition, interaction with other species (non-target and ETP species) and fishing effort; in the period between January 2017 to September 2017 the coverage of observers in the fleet was about 10% of the total effort estimated in fishing days. It is important to mention that the IATTC has calculated that the minimum and sufficient level of coverage on longline vessels to produce reliable estimates of the species caught is 20% although its resolution C-11-08 (IATTC 2011) establishes a mandatory coverage of 5% of the fishing effort by a scientific observer. Few skipjack are captured by the longline fleet, thus this fishery cannot be used to elaborate reliable index of abundance for this species (IATTC 2018)
Ecuador, through the Acuerdo Ministerial N° 407 (Ministerio de Agricultura, Ganadería, Acuacultura y Pesca 2011) defines a ‘nodriza’ as a vessel that tows up to ten smaller artisanal longline vessels or ‘fibras’ towards far fishing grounds and its purpose is to supply water, fuel, food, bait and other supplies for fishing, and also to receive the catch from the small vessels. Amongst the requirements needed for the fishing, there is an ‘official agreement’ grant by the Subsecretaría de Recursos Pesqueros, a fishing permit which has to be annually renovated, certificates of the ship, a vessel monitoring system and a sanitary permit.
Within the Ecuadorian framework, seasonal closures have not been found for its longline fleet, probably due to the fact that neither the IATTC apply them. The Acuerdo Ministerial N° 407 (Ministerio de Agricultura, Ganadería, Acuacultura y Pesca 2011) states that the Subsecretaría de Recursos Pesqueros has the responsibility of setting an observer program covering 10% of the artisanal ‘nodriza’ fleet. Nevertheless, specific and technical aspects like the fishing gear interaction with other species and catch per unit of effort in longlines is not being taken, this generates a void in data and potential management. Another measure taking in Ecuador by some tuna companies is the implementation of a Fisheries Improvement Project (FIP) aimed at getting the sustainability standard of the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), and as result of this, there is a current process to design the National Plan of Action for the sustainable management of the industrial fishery for the Ecuadorian Tuna (PAN-Atún) FIP, led by the Viceministerio de Acuacultura y Pesca through a participatory process that involves key players in the value chain of this fishery.