IATTC Tuna Transshipment Observer Program

In response to concerns that at-sea tuna transshipment operations constituted a gap in enforcement, in 2008 the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC) adopted Recommendation [06-11] to establish an observer program for transshipment on trans-pacific freezer carrier vessels transshipping tuna in the Eastern Pacific. This program is similar in structure to tuna transshipment observer programs run by other tuna Regional Fisheries Management Organizations (ICCAT and IOTC). MRAG Americas has been implementing the Regional Observer Program (ROP) since its inception in January 2009. The ROP aims to address Member State concerns regarding laundering of Illegal, Unregulated and Unreported (IUU) tuna catches by monitoring transshipments at sea from Large Scale Longline Tuna Vessels (LSLTVs) operating in the Convention Area. Recommendation [06-11] states that all tuna and tuna like species transshipped in the Convention area must be done so in port. However, at sea transshipments can be authorized by Contracting Parties provided the Carrier Vessel (CV) has VMS capabilities and a trained IATTC observer is on board to monitor the process.


MRAG manages all aspects of the IATTC observer program, including observer recruiting, training, outfitting of gear, coordinating deployment and return, debriefing and the collection, processing and transmittal of data. MRAG developed the data collection, forms, sampling protocols, data management and debriefing protocols. Observer deployments last for between 2 weeks and several months out of ports such as Papeete, Majuro, Kaohsiung, and Shimizu.   They monitor the tuna offloads from Large Scale Tuna Long Line Vessels (LSTLVs). MRAG averages 2,200 deployed days/year, with effort peaking in October. MRAG has cultivated a high quality observer roster for the IATTC program, with the 15 active observers averaging more than 2,000 seadays apiece.