Shark Trust Director of Conservation, Ali Hood, looks back at an eventful IOTC Meeting in Thailand. 

Bangkok! What a city! Immense, loud, hot & humid, a real assault on all the senses, but so vibrant and friendly. I know I'll be back!

Thailand were the hosts for the 28th Session of the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC). The annual meeting, which sees the 29 Parties, the coastal states and distant water fleets - like the EU - convene to discuss and develop proposals for the management of tuna & tuna-like species. NGOs and other interested bodies attend as observers, seeking to advocate for progress or head-off concerning management decisions, all depending on their interests.

Sharks & rays are – predictably - what brings us to the Indian Ocean. Long time observers to Atlantic & Mediterranean management bodies, we've been keen to engage in the Indian Ocean for some time. And thanks to the Big Shark Pledge, this year we've been here in person.

Being able to attend in person can really make a difference. Face to face meetings like this provide opportunity to talk directly with countries, to understand their drivers & positions. And importantly to hold the line for strong, science-based management proposals.

This year among some 23 proposals, from Skipjack Tuna management plans, to drifting FADs & High Seas Boarding Initiatives, there were two shark proposals. One, presented by the EU, focused solely on tightening the weak IOTC finning Resolution. The other, brought by the Maldives & Pakistan, sought to consolidate existing Resolutions for sharks, and also add additional measures for finning, alongside gear prohibitions intended to reduce bycatch of vulnerable species like Oceanic Whitetips and Silky Sharks, plus much needed management considerations for Blue Shark.

The Maldives proposal was considered first, and garnered solid support from at least 14 Parties, all keen to see better regulation & conscious of the pressing need to protect sharks & rays.

But with so many elements, this proposal was bound to create discussion, and along with support came concern from some Parties, not keen on aspects of what was proposed.

Frustratingly by the end of the week, after hours of discussion, the core elements of the proposal bore scant reflection of the original intent, yet still were too stringent for some Parties, but now too weak for others, and us.

Despite the failure to see strong proposals adopted, progress was made with some countries adapting their position and showing a willingness to talk.

As IOTC observers we will continue to engage, contributing to online meetings of Working Parties and the Scientific Committee over the next few months, and building on the connections with countries from across the region.



Next up: a stock assessment for Indian Ocean Shortfin Mako!