Members of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission concluded a five-day conference in Manilla, The Philippines, earlier this week by increasing catch limits on tropical tunas. It’s a move at least one conservation group fears could threaten the bigeye stock.
Beginning next year, Japan will be able to catch up to 18,265 metric tons of bigeye tuna. South Korea was allotted a nearly 14,000-metric-ton limit, while Taiwan will be able to harvest nearly 10,500 metric tons. China received a limit of more than 8,200 metric tons, in addition to a one-time transfer of 500 metric tons from Japan in 2018. Indonesia received a provisional allotment of nearly 5,900 metric tons, and the United States, which won the right to use its Pacific territories to increase its limit, can catch more than 3,500 metric tons.
Those limits were set after the commission’s scientific committee concluded that the bigeye stock “appears” not to suffer from overfishing.
Amanda Nickson, who is the director of international fisheries for The Pew Charitable Trusts, called the decision to increase the limits by 10 percent disappointing. The commission’s decisions mean the bigeye stock have a greater than 20 percent chance of falling below its accepted biomass standards over the next 30 years.
“The inability to agree on measures that are in line with scientific advice puts into question the Commission’s ability to fulfill its mandate and meet the needs of the Pacific islands that depend on healthy tuna fisheries for economic security and the distant-water fishing nations that operate Pacific Ocean fleets,” she said.
In its agreement, the commission announced it encourage members to research methods that would reduce the catch of juvenile bigeye and yellowfin tunas. In addition, would review the bigeye catch limits based on any revised stock assessments and the recommendations of the scientific committee.
WCPFC members also said they intend to switch to a zone-based system of longline catch limits to replace the current method of flag-based limits within members’ exclusive economic zones.
The new measures are scheduled to take effect on 6 February and will run through 2020.
Nickson said she hopes the members continue their discussions with develop plans to better protect the stocks.
“The health of tropical tunas in the Pacific, and the communities who depend on them, requires it, and cannot wait [to restart negotiations] another year,” she said.
The Palau government’s case filed against the Philippine fish carrier, Gene 8, was dismissed last week due to lack of government witnesses.
The Attorney General’s Office filed a motion asking for a rescheduling of the trial, but Associate Justice Kathleen Salii denied the move.
Based on the motion of continuance of the AGO, the Palau government could not make its case without witnesses because they were unavailable to appear before the court as prosecution witnesses.
Palau’s marine law officers seized Gene 8 in December of 2016. Palau’s patrol boat PSS Remeliik was conducting its marine surveillance when it found the vessel 45 miles northwest of Helen Reef.
The Gene No.8 was found moored to a fishing aggregation device, after which the marine officers boarded the vessel for an inspection.
The marine officers who were part of the surveillance operation during the apprehension of Gene 8 were at the time of the trial either in training off-island or on a surveillance mission outside of Koror.
The AGO also cited that that a new civil attorney hired by the AG’s office to handle the case has left the country in October and his contract was subsequently terminated in November.
Defense counsel for Gene 8 opposed the motion, saying that the AGO office had enough time to prepare for the trial and that the absence of witnesses during the trial is “inexcusable,” since they were aware of the trial date 74 days earlier.
The court gave credence to the defense counsel opposition and ordered the case dismissed. Justice Salii also ordered the return of the cash bail posted by the owners of the fish carrier. Saliil also ordered that the surety bond and cash bail posted are exonerated.
The Gene 8 itself was released on Oct 1 after posting a surety bond and allowed to sail back to the Philippines with the three remaining Filipino fishermen sent back home with the boat.
The Palau government offered to settle the case prior to the trial but the defense rejected the offer.
Manila, Philippines —- Vietnam is again under pressure to explain what measures it will put in place to stop the small blue boats poaching the reef resources of the Western and Central Pacific Ocean.
Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) and New Caledonia representatives at the 14th Regular Session of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) here reiterated that the Vietnamese blue boats are unwelcome in the region.
“We have a saying, that just because you are not catching them, does not mean they are not here,” Eugene Pangelinan, head of the FSM’s National Oceanic Resource Management Authority (NORMA).
Pangelinan said that before coming to the WCPFC meeting, there was optimism that the Vietnam government had heeded the calls for it to stop blue boats departures, as sightings in the Pacific had become rare since the incursions were brought to the attention of Hanoi at last year’s WCPFC meeting in Nadi, Fiji.
Although the blue boats target coastal reef resources and not tuna, Pangelinan said, this is still a problem of IUU fishing and affects the ecosystem.
“The tuna commission is managing tuna fisheries, what we are calling on Vietnam are to step up to the plate and undertake its flag obligations.
“We will be looking for Vietnam’s more detailed or direct response on their monitoring, control and surveillance (MCS),” Pangelinan said.
New Caledonia’s representative Manuel Ducrocq earlier warned the WCPFC that the blue boats are back in the region.
Last week New Caledonia intercepted two Vietnamese Blue boats in its waters.
In an update to journalists covering WCPFC he said 10 tonnes of gutted and salted sea cucumber were found on board in 58 barrels. Shark fins were also found during the apprehension. These had been caught in a shark sanctuary, in violation of international rules and New Caledonian law.
In addition, he revealed three more blue boats had been sighted sailing along the sea boundary between New Caledonian and Australian waters but the vessels had disappeared before authorities were able to apprehend them.
Ducrocq said blue boats are a problem in New Caledonia and pose a huge cost in feeding the crew members of the detained boats.
He said that this is a problem of IUU that Vietnam should fix.
Vietnam is a cooperating non-member of the WCPFC.
“If Vietnam’s response (to the blue boats issue) is not sufficient, we may have to review its status at the WCPFC,” Ducrocq warned.
“We are waiting to see whether they are serious or not. We must think positively and Vietnam has a unique opportunity here to make a change.”
Fisheries Forum Agency (FFA) Director General James Movick said this is a problem recognized by FFA members.
In May, FFA issued a collective statement to help Pacific countries to address the newest threat for Pacific reef systems, Vietnamese Blue Boats.
Movick said that aerial surveillance of the reef systems within Pacific exclusive economic zones is part of the tools that can be used to spot these blue boats.
“We hope that by January we start to mount the aerial surveillance program that we can deploy in North Pacific, in FSM and Palau,” Movick stated.
THE Tokelau Arrangement – an agreement which aims to get Pacific nations working together to manage albacore tuna stocks – is not the right approach for the country, says Under-Secretary for the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resource (MFMR) Ferral Lasi.
Solomon Islands has the biggest albacore fishery of any Pacific nation but confirmed recently it has has withdrawn from the Arrangement.
Speaking to journalists covering the 14th Western Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC14) in Manila, Mr Lasi said the reason for the withdrawal is based on what is best for the country.
He explained that although Solomon Islands had been assured that its catch allocation under the Arrangement would be based on its historical catch, this did not appear to be the case once the models are run.
“We can see consistently that our allocation has gone down. And so, we decided the best is for us to withdraw, we don’t want to be constrained, because we also have our localization policy, to have our own fleet.
“We are also using the Longline VDS system, which is in conflict with the catch-base system that the Tokelau Arrangement is proposing.
“So that is the reason why we pulled out,” Mr Lasi explained, during a press conference yesterday.
He added, the strengthening of the local Solomon Islands fisheries is part of the country’s policy for the future.
“Based on the longline VDS, we want to ring fence and get more control, …and we see the Arrangement as standing in the way, constraining our policy.
“The Tokelau Arrangement only caters for certain members of FFA. Not all the members are part of the agreement,” the HOD for the Solomon Islands delegation said.
When asked if the move will affect the Pacific Solidarity in the Tuna industry, Mr Lasi said the country did not see this as something that will affect the pacific solidarity, but as an opportunity to breakout and regroup and to form a better Arrangement.
However, the Pacific Islands Tuna Industries Association (PITIA) was dismayed by the news on the country’s withdrawal.
“… actually it was disappointing for the industry, it was disappointing probably for the Pacific island region as well,” John Maefiti, Executive Officer of the Honiara based Tuna Industries Association, told the media
“We should sit down at the table and discuss our differences and look at ways to go forward.
“We just have to show the world that we are together in this and we should fight together in this and not try to show them our weak points by showing our differences in this type of initiative.” Mr Maefiti said.
AFTER a lull in sightings of illegal Vietnamese Blue Boats in the Pacific seas, New Caledonia has warned Pacific States that the illegal fishing boats are back.
The Tuna Commission was told this week in Manila, Philippines about the Blue Boat threat, despite all the efforts to crack down on them.
New Caledonia is the latest country to sight the boats, Thursday last week.
“The purpose of my intervention to warn the members of the Western Pacific by sharing with you what is happening now in New Caledonia,” said the French territory’s representative Manuel Ducrocq.
“Blue Boats are back in the region.
“Despite the statement of several Commission members during last plenary session, despite the joint effort between FFA members, the QUAD (the defence forces of Australia, New Zealand the United States and France) and New Caledonia to join their knowledge and diplomacy, despite the yellow card delivered by the EU to Vietnam, Blue Boats are back in our waters,” Mr Ducrocq told the opening session of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission.
The francophone territory also remembered well a Vietnamese statement in the last Tuna Commission meeting in Fiji, which explained that the Vietnam government was highly concerned over the Blue Boats activities in the Pacific seas.
Looking back at the Vietnamese statement, the New Caledonia delegation to this year’s WCPFC14 said they (Vietnam) is still not doing much to address the issue.
“I remember the statement by our friend, the delegate of Vietnam, during last TCC who explained us that Vietnam is highly concerned about IUU fishing but it is apparently not enough.
“Indeed two Blue Boats were intercepted last Thursday in the waters of New Caledonia. Boats and crew have been delivered by the French navy to justice,” Mr Ducrocq stated.
Five tones of gutted and salted sea cucumber and shark fins were found on board the apprehended vessels.
“I know that sea cucumber is not a highly-migratory species but this time shark fins and was equally found on board.
“Sharks were illegally fished in the participating territory of the Commission …, against the New Caledonia fishing policy in a shark sanctuary. One more time, it is not acceptable,” the representative said.
It was understood that the Commission will be informed officially of these facts, when the 14th Tuna Commission meeting continues this week.
With the successful interception of the two blue boats, New Caledonia wishes to thank Australia for the efficient co-operation work with the French navy.
Towards the middle of this year, three Blue boats were caught in the Indispensable reef of Solomon Islands, and the captains and crews were ordered to pay huge fines, for breaching the country’s laws.
These Blue Boats and their illegal activities are now a serious threat to nations of the Pacific region.
The recent incident in New Caledonia will prompt other Pacific Island countries, and other fisheries bodies like the Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA), and the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA), to continue to call on Vietnam to be cooperative, in the current 14th regular Tuna Commission meeting.
MANILA, 05 DECEMBER 2017 (PACNEWS) —-The Pacific has called for the control of longline fishing on the high seas at the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) currently underway in Manila.
The Western and Central Pacific Ocean is the source of about 2.8 million metric tons of tuna valued at US$5.3 billion, representing 79 percent of the aggregate catch in the entire Pacific Ocean and 56 percent of the global tuna catch.
WCPFC is a regional fisheries-management organisation that governs fishing activities, particularly of tuna, in the high seas or waters that do not belong to any country.
Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) Director General, James Movick says although there has been an improvement in the data that has been collected from vessels operating in the High Seas there clearly is not sufficient or robust controls over the High Seas longline fleet activity.
“The other aspects of High seas that need to be considered carefully is the control of Longline fishing on the High Seas which is a flag-based measure (one that is based around rights of the nationality of the fishing vessel)at the present time. And although there has been an improvement in the data that has been collected from vessels operating in the High Seas there clearly is not sufficient or robust controls over the High Seas longline fleet activity.
“And it is important as the Longline fleet is the major source of bigeye (tuna) mortality,” Movick said
“Whereas on the purse seine side we’re able to have 100% observer coverage, much more verification of catches etc…Unfortunately at the present time we don’t have a similarly high degree of confidence in the data we’re receiving from High Seas activities targeting the big bigeye tuna and the longline fishery.
There needs to be better control over the Longline fishery in the High Seas,” Movick told regional journalists in a media briefing in Manila.
Although it has been difficult getting data off longline boats and putting independent fisheries observers on board, Movick said the task is possible to achieve.
“I think we can achieve it. We’re experimenting. We have trials underway and the commission itself is seeking to develop standards for e-monitoring and e-reporting and work quite well in other fisheries around the world,” Movick said.
“So we’re looking to see how we can adapt those for operating conditions in the Pacific so we should see a higher degree of monitoring capability for these boats. I don’t think it is an impossible task.
Parties to Nauru Agreement (PNA) CEO, Ludwig Kumoru said, with the way PNA is implementing the Vessel Day Scheme (VDS) for the longline fleet, having reliable data will be achievable within 5-years.
“First of all we need to get it done within our (200-mile exclusive economic) zones, then and only then can we look to extend it to the High Seas. But again, when it comes to the High Seas we’ll going to need the whole grouping – but its easier to do it within zones. And that’s the importance of ‘zone-based management’ because we can make the decision and just carry on,” said Kumoru.
Movick said: “The point is, we’ve always taken the principle in the Pacific that this resource belongs primarily to us – the countries from whose EEZs the vast bulk of this fish is caught.
“And with all our management responsibilities, we should also be able to have a degree of management say in the High Seas as well.
“So as a matter of equity, right from the very beginning we’ve always said that countries of the Pacific, SIDS, should also be able to benefit from the entire fishery and participate in the entire fishery given their development aspirations, given their different geographical placement etc, relative to where the main fishing activity takes place. But that’s not been something that this commission has been able to address up until now.
“What we’re saying is this aspect of the commission does need to be addressed because this resource is one that is being taken care of by all the Pacific island countries who have worked strenuously over the last 30+ years since the establishment of the 3rd Law of the Sea (Conference), working collectively to ensure that this resource is the most robust and well managed tuna fishery in the world. It’s a burden that’s been placed on all of us so we need to recognise that, and give shape to everybody’s different aspirations, rights and everything to the resource,” said Movick.
The WCPFC’s annual meetings are aimed at protecting highly migratory fish stocks with rules known as conservation and management measures. …..PACNEWS
The Forum Fisheries Agency says new restrictions could fall on foreign fisheries operating in Pacific waters.
The comments come as the annual meeting of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission, or Tuna Commission, takes place in Pasay City in the Philippines.
The FFA’s director-general, James Movick, said it was too early to tell how much fish could be caught on the high seas and action needed to be taken to ensure the rest of the world held off on overfishing.
“We do have to move towards establishing hard limits that can be followed in all of the fisheries both in-zone and on the high seas, allocating those fairly and then adopting harvest control rules so that in the future when we do run into situations of overfishing or threats, risks to the state of the fishery we are able to make decisions,” said James Movick.
Mr Movick’s comments echo those of Fiji’s fisheries minister Semi Koroilavesau, who told the meeting Fiji’s fishery may collapse under the pressure of overfishing.
The Marshalls fisheries department director Glen Joseph said he is happy to see that the purse seine fishing industry has begun taking action to modify fishing gear to reduce by catch of bigeye tuna.
Also this week, Solomon Islands announced its withdrawal from the Tokelau Arrangement for South Pacific albacore, saying it was too restrictive on fisheries development.
However, Mr Movick said he hadn’t received a formal notice of this move and hoped the Solomons would stay in the agreement.
“Unless we can establish some limits to the Southern albacore long line fishery, everyone stands a good chance of going bust. It doesn’t matter which deck chair you’re sitting on when the Titanic goes down. When the ship goes down, all the chairs go down,” James Movick said.
Different approaches towards managing a heavily depleted fish stock have emerged between two Pacific nations.
In the past decade southern albacore numbers have dropped significantly making profitability very difficult, especially for Pacific-owned boats that do not receive fuel subsidies available to many foreign vessels.
At the 14th annual meeting of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) currently being held in Manila, Philippines, the Solomon Islands and the Cooks Islands – home to the two biggest southern albacore fisheries – have separately voiced preferences for competing management systems for the tuna.
Previously, Solomon Islands said it has withdrawn from a key fishing agreement aiming to limit the total catches of southern albacore, citing differences over how to best manage catches.
The agreement, known as the Tokelau Arrangement, saw 11 nations from the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) member countries agree in 2014, to place limits on albacore catches in their EEZ waters.
Under-Secretary for the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources Ferral Lasi, who also heads Solomon Islands’ WCPFC delegation, said Tokelau’s “catch-based system” which uses quotas to allocate fishing rights was in conflict with its own longline vessel day scheme (VDS).
Vessel day schemes sell fishing rights to fishing boats at a daily rate. The system has been used successfully by a group of Pacific nations under an arrangement called the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA). Fishing fleets – mostly from distant water fishing nations – can pay over US$10,000 per day to fish for skipjack tuna in PNA waters.
Under the VDS, PNA nations have seen fisheries revenue rise from US$60 million annually in 2010 to close to $500 million this year.
This year, the Cook Islands established a quota-based management system for albacore catches in its own waters, which it believes is better-suited for the fishery.
Speaking in Manila, Cook Islands Ministry of Marine Resources Secretary Ben Ponia said differences between the longline and purse seine fishing methods need to be considered when assessing management systems.
Issues such as higher by-catch in the longline industry and difference in stock sizes between various species of tuna also need to be taken into account.
“In some respect applying an effort control over the skipjack fishery was not a problem,” he said.
“But when you’re dealing with a much smaller stock of Albacore, or Yellowfin or Bigeye, you really need to be careful as to how much volume you are extracting.”
“It is probably easier to manage using a vessel day scheme, but ultimately what we’re trying to do is control catches, not effort,” he said.
In 2015, catch value for southern albacore reached US$357 million.
Between 8-10 per cent of Albacore catches occur in Cook Islands waters, he added.
Ponia said the Cook Islands has reservations about aspects of the Tokelau Arrangement, but hasn’t formally withdrawn.
“We are prepared to engage in the Albacore fishery in a meaningful way, and we are demonstrating that I believe through our own regulations,” said Ponia.
Despite differences over management approaches towards albacore, Lasi said the primary reason Solomon Islands is pulling out of the arrangement is concern over a reduced catch allocation for his country.
“We don’t want to be constrained,” he said.
The Solomon Islands is now devising a replacement for the Tokelau arrangement, Lasi said.
“We are proposing another arrangement on top of Tokelau that will be better for everyone, including the Solomon Islands.”
Apart from Solomon Islands, signatories to the Tokelau Arrangement include: Australia, Cook Islands, Fiji, New Zealand, Niue, Samoa, Tokelau, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.
The survival of the Pacific’s domestic tuna longline fishery is at stake without more effective management of fishing in the High Seas – those areas outside of the waters of the region’s 200-mile Exclusive Economic Zones.
Pacific Islands Tuna Industry Association (PITIA) Executive Officer John Maefiti says the fishery is a shadow of what was once a viable and attractive industry because the regional body that sets the rules for fishing has failed to control a “massive” increase in High Seas fishing by distant water fishing nations, especially by Taiwan and China.
“The industry has been trying to adapt to the tough conditions of the past few years. If we keep going this way, boats will be tied up and companies closed down,” he says.
Maefiti presented the industry’s concerns to the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC), better known as the Tuna Commission, at its 14th annual meeting in Manila, Philippines today. The Commission brings together the resource owners – the Pacific Island states – with the distant water fishing nations to set rules, usually by consensus, that address the conservation and management of tuna fisheries. The differing interests of the parties make it hard to agree on effective measures. More than 60 per cent of the global catch of albacore, bigeye, skipjack and yellowfin tunas come from the Western and Central Pacific Ocean (WCPO). In 2015 the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) island nation’s longline fleets catch in the WCPO was worth around US$436 million.
Maefiti said the Commission continues to fail to respond to the dire conditions of the Southern longline fishery impacting the domestic fishing industry of the Pacific Island states.
“Nobody can deny the perilous commercial state of this fishery. Catch rates simply cannot support current costs, leaving many companies just barely surviving,” he said at the Commission meeting.
The Southern longline fishery is the part of the fishery that is south of 10 degrees south of the equator in the WCPFC Convention Area.
Maefiti said the domestic industry generates critical revenue for Pacific Island states and employs thousands of people in the region.
PITIA’s position echoed Samoa’s statement at the opening of the week-long Commission meeting on Sunday. Samoa’s Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries Lopao’o Natanielu Mu’a told the Commission that its domestic longline fleet has struggled to survive poor economic conditions as a result of prolonged reduction in catch rates for South Pacific Albacore.
“This deteriorating situation had resulted in the need to change the norms of operation for our tuna industry to mitigate the poor economic conditions or otherwise risk a shutdown altogether of our domestic tuna fishery.
“We have seen both a general decline in catch rates and vulnerable levels of spawning biomass for this stock over the years,” said Mu’a.
Samoa is concerned that the scientific assessment of South Pacific Albacore suggests stocks are declining and that there is a 17 per cent chance that stocks could drop below the critical 20 per cent of pre-fishing levels in the next 12 months.
“The deteriorating status of the South Pacific Albacore must not be allowed to continue and the Commission is obligated to implement management measures to ensure the long-term sustainability of this resource.”
Briefing Pacific Islands media in Manila, Maefiti said PITIA members are also calling for the Commission to come to an agreement on a harvest strategy for South Pacific Albacore, which will set a target reference point (TRP), and develop a harvest control rules to give effect to the strategy. The TRP is the optimal fish stock level for sustainable fishing.
“The catch rate is falling due mainly to the distant-water fishing nations fishing on the High Seas, especially Taiwan and China,” he says.
He told the Commission that its inability to control High Seas fishing effort is a sad indictment on its ability to manage the fisheries under its charge.
“This is a critically important fishery for our fishing industry and PITIA strongly urges the WCPFC to make a decision to ensure the long term commercial viability and sustainability of our Southern long line fishery.”
Representatives of Fiji’s and Papua New Guinea’s (PNG) domestic industry also shared their concern with Pacific media.
Fabian Chow, Treasurer of PNG’s Fishing Industry Association said the long-term vision for growing the domestic industry was being handicapped by changes in policies driven by fiscal pressures and short-term thinking.
“Our members are hurting out there. They are generating red ink.”
Chow said the industry has had its successes, and can grow if there is investment.
“You don’t imagine what a tuna cannery means to a small province, how it can transform the hopes and aspirations of those people,” said Chow.
In addition to concerns for the longline fishery, Maefiti said it was disappointing for PITIA and its members to see the Solomon Islands withdraw its support of the Tokelau Arrangement which aims to set limits for albacore catch in the region.
“We were putting our hopes on the Pacific Island states to fight in solidarity for the fishery. Its not looking good for the industry,” he said.
“We have to stay together so that we can have more leverage in these negotiations. The sustainability of this resource is very important for the Pacific Island states. We have to show the world that we are together in this.”
Maefiti said more transparency around the Commission meeting is needed to ensure that the people of the region know what decisions are being made. He said it was up to civil society organisations and the media to help the people of the Pacific understand the challenges and the potential benefits of sustainable fishing for their economic development and future generations.
Maefiti says he was encouraged by the coverage provided by the PACNEWS/Forum Fisheries Agency Pacific media team.
“We need to inform our people about what’s happening in there. All the policies we put in place should benefit the people. This is a publicly-owned resource.”
Pacific island countries could lose up to 80 per cent of fisheries
Most countries in Pacific depend on fish for food and livelihoods
Yellowfin and skipjack tuna among important species that could move away
Many Pacific Island countries and territories will lose 50-80 per cent of marine species by the end of the 21st century if climate change and global warming continue unchecked, reports a new study.
“Potential fisheries catches will decrease by more than 50 per cent in many regions in the South Pacific,” says William Cheung, associate professor, University of British Columbia, and co-author of the study published in the November issue of Marine Policy.
A decrease can happen in both scenarios — business-as-usual (increase in temperature above 3 degrees Celsius by 2100) and strong mitigation (below 1.7 degrees Celsius by 2100) — but to a lesser extent in a low emissions scenario. According to the study, fisheries catches are expected to fall by more than 50 per cent by the year 2050 for some countries: the Cook Islands, Micronesia, Niue and Tuvalu.
Such losses will be dramatic as most countries in the Pacific are dependent on fisheries for food and livelihoods. Fish contribute up to 50 per cent of the animal protein diet on some islands. National economies will also be strongly affected. Yellowfin tuna and skipjack tuna may shift their distribution eastward and poleward throughout the 21st century, “with the potential disappearance of these species altogether from the western warm pool region,” the authors write.
“For many species, observations already show that the rate of movement towards the poles is more than 50 kilometres per decade,” says Philippe Cury, a senior scientist at IRD (French National Research Institute for Sustainable Development), who was not involved in the study.
Projections published by Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission earlier this year (in August 2017) suggested a more moderate decline in fish resources in the west tropical Pacific, estimating a 14 per cent drop on average by 2050 and a 50 per cent decrease by the end of the century.
The impacts of sea warming are well-documented. It disturbs the reproduction, growth, and metabolism of marine species, and transforms the food chain. At the base of the ocean food web, phytoplankton are projected to decline due to higher surface temperatures near the equator. Decreasing oxygen concentrations will limit the ocean depth that fish can occupy, leading to habitat compression. Anthropogenic carbon dioxide gas released into the atmosphere is also making sea water more acidic, affecting the calcification of coral and invertebrates, and so decreasing the habitat and food of reef-associated fish.
Because this rate of change is unprecedented, scientists expect that fish will be unable to adapt. Marine life in the tropical western Pacific is even more vulnerable to these changes because of a seasonally stable environment. As water temperatures climb up to 30 degrees Celsius, the western Pacific Ocean is susceptible to fish migration.