Coalition calls for regional harvest strategy to sustain yellowfin tuna in Western Central Pacific Ocean

May, 02 2024

On World Tuna Day, fisheries scientists and policy-makers of Indonesia, the Philippines and Viet Nam urged for a stronger collective vision and regional strategy to secure yellowfin tuna fisheries in the Western Central Pacific Ocean (WCPO).
Gathering at a fourth dialogue since 2022, the delegates expressed a rising urgency for harmonising conservation measures for yellowfin tuna (Thunnus albacares) in the WCPO - which harbours the largest tuna fisheries in the world - in order to avoid any future risk of collapse.

“We need to look no further than the Indian Ocean to understand the consequences of not taking action. Management failure has resulted in the continued overfished state of its yellowfin stock -- a cautionary tale for what could easily happen in the Western and Central Pacific if we are not diligent in our management approach,” said Bubba Cook, WWF’s Western and Central Pacific Tuna Programme Manager.

Despite being declared overfished by the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) since 2015, yellowfin tuna populations have continued to freefall in the Indian Ocean. Plans to rebuild its severely depleted yellowfin stock continue to hang in the balance and are expected to be a major point of discussion as parties are scheduled to meet at the upcoming IOTC annual meeting in Bangkok, 13 - 17 May, 2024. Parties must avoid further delays in management actions under the pretext of needing more data or time.

“It is risky to assume that the rate of decline for yellowfin tuna in the WCPO would follow current projections. With climate change impacts, low recruitment and other complex factors, we need to be more than ready with regionally-agreed management measures to ensure that we can secure yellowfin tuna populations here, while they are still in good stock status,” said Dr. Fayakun Satria, Head of Research Center for Fishery, Research Organization for Earth Sciences and Maritime, from the Indonesian National Research and Innovation Agency (BRIN).

Overfishing and rising ocean temperatures have drastically altered tuna fishing landscapes, affecting fishing communities across the region. Fishers in the Philippines' Mindoro Strait now report having to travel up to 40 kilometres offshore and spending one to two weeks at sea to achieve the catches they once did in just three to seven days. With the rising costs of essential supplies, escalating debts, and significant financial investments required for each fishing trip, tuna fishers are facing unprecedented risks and challenges.

Indonesia announced last year a 10% catch reduction over the next three years for yellowfin and skipjack tuna in its archipelagic waters - a precautionary approach that was agreed to by key stakeholders as part of Indonesia’s harvest strategy1. In the Philippines, where tuna accounts for over 10% of fisheries production, implementing conservation measures through its National Tuna Management Plan is key to balancing socio-economic needs while achieving sustainable tuna fisheries. 

However, even as 43% of yellowfin tuna caught in the WCPO comes from archipelagic waters, the majority of caught yellowfin tuna (57%) are still distributed across the rest of the WCPO2. This renders a regionally-harmonised harvest strategy essential, in order for yellowfin tuna stocks in the WCPO to be effectively managed.

“The WCPFC must now focus on ensuring robust harvest strategies, and this means removing management decisions from political considerations, in order to avoid exploitative risks that lead to collapse of fisheries,” said Cook.

Supported by WWF and Masyarakat dan Perikanan Indonesia (MDPI), the series of dialogues aim to support the three countries in deepening their shared understanding of each other’s goals, challenges and ambitions in tropical tuna conservation measures. This informal coalition will continue to facilitate open discussions on how Indonesia, the Philippines and Viet Nam can help to bolster regional commitment and cooperation at the Western Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC).

“This three-country coalition is an important platform to discuss common positions for the management of tuna stocks in this subregion, noting that we are archipelagic and developing states. By working together, we can identify relevant issues for potential collective action and for discussions at the level of WCPFC,” said Mr. Joeren Yleana, Supervising Aquaculturist at the Bureau Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) in the Philippines.

“Engagement between Viet Nam, Indonesia and the Philippines on tuna management is not new. We have developed more than ten years of cooperation via the West Pacific East Asia project. This is a logical next step for us to deepen our collaboration and build trust via regular dialogues. Here we can identify and address critical issues that could benefit not just the three countries, but also the wider region and relevant platforms such as WCPFC,” said Dr. Hai Duyen Vu, Director of the Capture Fisheries Office in Viet Nam’s Department of Fisheries (DoF). Viet Nam is now finalising its first ever national tuna management plan, which takes into account the allocation of fishing quotas and allowable fishing zones.

The coalition reiterates that a regional vision and strategy for the sustainable harvest of yellowfin tuna fisheries is necessary, as this would contribute to critical commitments on climate change, biodiversity, and other sustainable development goals -- a point that was made at last year’s WCPFC annual meeting. Key topics being discussed for collaboration include supporting small-scale fishers, reducing juvenile tuna catch, eliminating illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, and strengthening food security and climate resilience by developing domestic markets and balancing socio-economic needs. 

Indonesia’s harvest strategy applies to the Fisheries Management Areas 713, 714 and 715 within its archipelagic waters. 

2  Based on figures provided at the 19th Science Committee meeting of the WCPFC in 2023.

Notes to Editors

About the ‘VIP Coalition’
The coalition of Viet Nam, Indonesia, and the Philippines (informally known as the “VIP Coalition”) consists of fisheries scientists, policy-makers and advisors who support the official representation of the three countries at the Western Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) meetings. The “VIP Coalition” has been meeting in regular dialogues since 2022, with the first dialogue between Indonesia and Philippines delegates in August 2022 (Manila) before Viet Nam was invited to join in the second dialogue in March 2023 (Bangkok) and the third dialogue in November 2023 (Bangkok). This series of dialogues is supported by WWF and MDPI, as part of the Sustainable Tuna Partnerships 2 project.

About WWF
WWF is an independent conservation organisation, with over 30 million supporters and a global network active in over 100 countries. WWF's mission is to stop the degradation of the Earth's natural environment and to build a future in which humans live in harmony with nature, by conserving the world's biological diversity, ensuring that the use of renewable natural resources is sustainable, and promoting the reduction of pollution and wasteful consumption. Visit for the latest news and media resources and follow us on Twitter @WWF_media 

About Masyarakat dan Perikanan Indonesia (MDPI)
Established in 2013, Masyarakat dan Perikanan Indonesia (MDPI) is a non-governmental organization dedicated to advancing responsible and sustainable fisheries for the benefit of coastal communities and marine ecosystems. With a focus on fishery improvements, community development, and foundational activities, MDPI supports the strengthening of coastal communities and engages in extensive fisheries management initiatives across eastern Indonesia to foster long-term results. Its mission is to empower coastal communities in Indonesia to actively participate in fisheries management, harness market opportunities, and improve the sustainability of their fishing livelihoods. MDPI's impactful journey is guided by the motto "happy people, many fish," reflecting the intrinsic connection between fisher livelihoods and fisheries sustainability. Visit for more information

For more information, please contact:

Lim Jia Ling, Senior Manager Communications, WWF Coral Triangle Programme

Anisa Indira, Communications Officer, MDPI

4th Dialogue Meeting
© WWF-Singapore
Heatmap showing a distribution of where and how Yellowfin tuna are caught in the WCPO (2012-2021), presented by Finlay Scott of Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) at the VIP 3rd dialogue meeting. The three countries’ national harvest strategies are critical for yellowfin tuna fisheries in the wider region, which covers a significant area of the fisheries’ distribution, but 57% of YFT are fished across the rest of the WCPO. Source: Magnusson et al, Yellowfin tuna assessment peer review status update, WCPFC-SC18-2022/SA-IP-08.
© Magnusson et al, Yellowfin tuna assessment peer review status update, WCPFC-SC18-2022/SA-IP-08