Tuna fishing with purse seiners. (Photo: TunaSeiners)
OPRT warns of excessive tuna fishing
Monday, September 03, 2012, 00:20 (GMT + 9)
Since the Food and Agriculture Organization-Fisheries and Aquaculture Department (FAO) adopted the International Plan of Action for fishing capacity more than a decade ago distant water longline fishery has cut down fleet size substantially but the size of purse seine fleets has kept expanding, which reflects the economy of each fleet, according to the Organisation for the Promotion of Responsible Tuna Fisheries (OPRT).
Tuna longliners are now operating at an economic limit as a consequence of diminished large tuna stocks, a phenomenon which has resulted from other fisheries’ preceding catch of juveniles.
The only choice this left for the longliners was the reduction in fleet size.
Distant-water longline operators then established the OPRT to eliminate illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing vessels and slash the fishing fleet size. OPRT’s major actions were the establishment of a world registration of active vessels, and buy-back and scrap policy at the cost of vessel-owners which remained active.
This fleet reduction facilitated the adoption of regulatory measures for the longliners and improved their fishing economy.
At the same time, this reduction of longline fleet was offset by an expansion of purse seiners.
“We should understand that the fishing capacity of a fleet increases constantly with an improvement in fishing technology, even if the fish-carrying capacity or number of vessels stays constant. The annual rate of increase in fishing efficiency of purse seiners is far more than that of longliners, while longliners’ efficiency has been even reduced by various restrictions set on them for the mitigation of by-catches,” OPRT elaborated.
In the Eastern Pacific Ocean, the vessel registry system intends to cap the total volume of the purse seine fish hold. Scientists estimated that current fishing capacity of the purse seiners is at least in excess by 30 per cent as regards the appropriate level to harvest tuna there sustainably.
The increase of fishing capacity makes the adoption of proper fish regulations trickier and has in the process had an adverse effect on the catch rate and profit of fishers, OPRT explained.
“The control of purse seine fishing capacity is an urgent global task for the world tuna management,” the organisation concluded.
Earlier this month, the OPRT summarized the views of its members in 15 countries concerning the current situation in the Western Central Pacific Ocean managed by the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC). Their common concerns are :
- Management measures for bigeye for 2012 are a simple roll-over of the measures of 2011 despite the need to develop more effective measures to recover the stock;
- No measures taken to address overfishing capacity of large scale purse seine vessels despite recommendation by Kobe III;
- Significant pressure to the resources caused by the recent increase of fishing capacity of small scale long line vessels having capacity equivalent to large scale vessels.
By Natalia Real