Tuna experts are sceptical of Japanese government’s impending proposal to seek an increase in fishing quotas for Pacific bluefin.
The Japanese government is reportedly planning to put the proposal to Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) at the Scientific Committee meeting in Busan, Korea later this month.
Their proposal will be made on the grounds that Pacific bluefin tuna stocks are on a recovery track.
However, Jamie Gibbon, the global tuna conservation officer with The Pew Charitable Trusts, says the Pacific bluefin tuna population is still severely depleted, at just 3.3 per cent of its unfished size.
He says overfishing was still occurring – with fishing rates more than twice the maximum sustainable level. Based on the current stock size, Gibbon says they opposed Japan’s proposal to increase catch limits for Pacific bluefin tuna.
“The projections that show future growth in the population are all heavily influenced by the estimate of recent recruitment (the number of new fish in the population in 2016) and that estimate is relatively uncertain, because it is based on just one observation from one source of data,” Gibbon says.
“Because of the depleted status of the population and the uncertainty about the accuracy of the future projections, we are urging members of the WCPFC to maintain the catch limits at the their current levels for at least the next two years, until a full stock assessment can be performed to confirm the results.”
Japan’s move, reports Japanese daily newspaper The Mainichi Shimbun, comes in response to a recent estimate by the International Scientific Committee (ISC) for Tuna and Tuna-like Species in the North Pacific Ocean that a provisional target for stock recovery can be achieved with a high probability, even if countries raised their tuna catch quotas.
After overfishing of bluefin tuna, which is a popular fish for sushi and sashimi, the WCPFC set a tentative target to recover stocks of bluefin tuna weighing 30 kilograms or more to 43,000 metric tons by 2024.
The Mainichi Shimbun reports that the ISC estimated that even if countries raised their tuna catch quotas by up to 15 per cent without differentiating between large tuna and small tuna weighing under 30kg, the probability of achieving the provisional target would be 74 per cent.
But Dr John Hampton, chief scientist and deputy director of the Pacific Community’s (SPC) Division of Fisheries, Aquaculture and Marine Ecosystems says he feels that the optimistic outlook was overly reliant on just one recent estimate of high recruitment, which was quite uncertain.
“If that estimate changes in the future, then the probability of meeting the recovery target would change,” Dr Hampton says. “In my opinion, it would be premature to increase quotas at this stage. I think we should wait until there is greater certainty regarding the recent high recruitment.”
Dr Hampton says the stock assessment report from the ISC also made the following cautionary statement: “However, it should be recognised that these projection results are strongly influenced by the inclusion of the relatively high, but uncertain recruitment estimate for 2016”.
The Pew Charitable Trusts’ Gibbon says the 16-year rebuilding plan for Pacific bluefin tuna was in just its first year, adding it was too early to start making changes.
“The members of WCFPC must give the plan time to work, or they threaten the future health of the Pacific bluefin population and the fisheries that depend on it.”
Tuna fishermen around the world use fish aggregating devices (FADs)—man-made floating objects that many species gather beneath—to increase their catch. However, these devices also lead to large amounts of bycatch and often become marine debris, in large part because the international organizations that regulate these fisheries have limited FAD management measures in place.
FAD use has increased significantly in recent decades, boosted by technologies that also have made FADs more effective. Each of the tropical tuna regional fishery management organizations (tRFMOs)—the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC), the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT), the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC), and the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC)—have begun to grapple with how best to manage FAD use, but current measures remain inadequate.
The Pew Charitable Trusts reviewed the FAD management measures in place across these organizations and found widely divergent approaches. None of the tRFMOs has yet put a comprehensive plan in place.
These management organizations should take advantage of tested and available strategies and best practices, depending on their individual needs and constituencies. This brief lays out the basic concepts in four categories of issues that should be addressed immediately—information sharing, tuna management, bycatch mitigation, and debris reduction. It also includes a comparison of what each tRFMO now has in place.
Although all of these policies may not be needed for every fishery, each tRFMO should immediately adopt a FAD management approach that mitigates the impact of these devices and ensures their sustainable use.
A worsening problem
The lack of tRFMO regulation has allowed FAD use to expand rapidly since the 1990s. Although precise numbers are unknown, a 2015 Pew study estimated that as many as 121,000 FADs may be deployed annually.1
Fishermen deploy FADs at sea because tuna gather beneath them. A typical design includes a raft with netting that hangs as deep as 100 meters below the surface. A satellite-linked buoy relays the location to a fishing vessel. More sophisticated buoys include echo-sounders that can tell fishermen the amount of tuna under the FAD and, in some cases, the species.
These drifting devices have boosted the efficiency of purse seine vessels that use huge nets to encircle and catch large numbers of skipjack tuna. That has increased the worldwide supply of this important source of protein and supported many livelihoods, but it has also taken a toll on other tuna populations and marine species. For example, small and juvenile bigeye and yellowfin tuna also gather around FADs. Although fishing vessels may not be seeking these fish, FAD use can lead to unsustainable catches of one or both of those species—depending on where the fishing is occurring—if not properly managed. That reduces their populations and their productivity. This has happened across the globe with bigeye in the Atlantic Ocean and yellowfin in the Indian Ocean, for example, where both are experiencing overfishing and are overfished.
In the Pacific, bigeye’s status also remains a concern. In the eastern Pacific, this species is experiencing overfishing, while in the ocean’s western waters, the stock is thought to be healthy now although high numbers of juvenile fish are being caught.
FADs also cause the deaths of threatened or protected species such as sharks and turtles, which can get entangled in the webbing or are caught incidentally in the purse seine nets. And FADs pollute and damage habitats when this gear is lost or abandoned at sea. Legal ownership is often unclear, in part because vessels fish on any FAD they find, whether they deployed it or encountered it by chance. As a result, fishermen often treat FADs as disposable, so they wash up on beaches and coral reefs and contribute to plastic pollution.
Strategies available to reduce FADs’ adverse impacts
The tRFMOs have made slow progress in regulating these devices, but a number of strategies are available that they have yet to widely implement that can better manage the range of FAD impacts.
The selected strategies outlined here are some of the best practices identified in 2017 by experts at an independent Global FAD Science Symposium and mirror some of the conclusions from the first Joint tRFMO FAD Working Group meeting, which brought together representatives from three of the four tropical tuna RFMOs to identify priorities and actions to manage FADs.2
Pew selected the strategies for inclusion in this brief from a longer list developed at those meetings based on three criteria: They can be applied in the tRFMO context, they are feasible as regulatory policies, and they do not require development of new technologies to be put in place in the near term. These strategies do not represent an exhaustive list but are offered as a starting point for discussion.
They are presented in four categories of issues that should be addressed immediately: information sharing, tuna management, bycatch mitigation, and debris reduction. The list does not include some worthy strategies, such as requiring the use of biodegradable materials as much as possible in building FADs, that require further technological development, testing, or clarification of terms to be fully realized.
Improvements to FAD management should be made in tandem with other actions required to ensure fisheries are sustainable, regardless of the gear used. For example, fishing pressure on a stock from all gears must remain within the scientifically advised levels, and effective compliance systems must be fully implemented.
To improve information collection, tRFMOs could:
Require industry to share electronic position data from buoys with scientists and/or fishery authorities (i.e., FAD tracking). Unique physical identifiers could also be required on the raft. These steps would allow tRFMOs to improve scientific understanding about the use and impact of FADs, monitor compliance with existing rules, increase accountability for FAD impacts, and develop improved measures.
To improve tuna management, tRFMOs could:
Cap the amount of FAD fishing and provide incentives to shift fishing effort to free schools to reduce the unsustainable catch of juvenile bigeye and yellowfin tunas. Steps could include setting annual science-based limits on the number of FAD sets or catch limits for bigeye and yellowfin tunas in the purse seine fishery along with appropriate management of other gears catching the same stocks. Economic incentives may complement a strategy to encourage greater effort on free school fishing. Today, some tRFMOs institute prohibitions on FAD use in certain waters or at certain times, which is often ineffective because fishing can increase in other areas or during periods when FAD fishing is allowed. Greater free school fishing also would reduce the impact on non-target species such as sharks and turtles often caught around FADs.
Develop and implement science-based FAD deployment limits to better manage the proliferation in the number of FADs and harm to ecosystem dynamics. Restrictions could be for particular waters or vessels. Although the four tRFMOs have capped the number of FAD buoys that can be monitored by an individual vessel at any one time, these limits do not appear to be restrictive enough to affect the behaviors of fishing fleets as a whole. Limits on deployments also would help reduce marine debris associated with unrecovered FADs.;
To mitigate bycatch, tRFMOs could:
Require use of non-entangling FADs to avoid killing sharks and turtles that get caught in the webbing material of the rafts. Experience with fleets deploying non-entangling FADs demonstrates that they do not reduce the catch of targeted tunas, but can effectively curtail entanglement of sharks and turtles.
Require the release of sharks and turtles from purse seine nets before hauling them in to minimize mortality.
Require use of published safe-release techniques for sharks brought on deck and mandate revival techniques for turtles to improve the survivability of the animals.
Require non-target bony fish to be kept and landed to avoid waste of bycatch species that may have value in local markets.
To reduce debris, tRFMOs could:
Develop and implement science-based FAD deployment limits to minimize the contribution to marine debris and mitigate the probability that lost or abandoned FADs wash up on coastlines or coral reefs. Most deployed FADs are never fished upon.
Require FADs to be recovered by removing them from the water, such as via partnerships with coastal authorities/communities, and the use of systems that can help intercept FADs before they beach. They also should establish cleanup funds to reimburse the costs of removing FADs that do end up on shore.
Comparing measures in place in the RFMOs that manage tropical tunas
The following assessment compares published FAD-related regulations at each tuna RFMO against the strategies laid out in this brief. It gives tRFMOs the benefit of the doubt by assuming 100 percent compliance by members with these rules. The assessment, however, does not reflect situations in which a fleet or States have adopted FAD policies outside of tRFMO management measures. To meet the criteria, a strategy must be mandatory; voluntary measures are assessed as not meeting the criteria.
Pew’s analysis shows that none of the four RFMOs that manage tropical tunas currently takes a comprehensive approach to managing FAD use. Progress has been made on reducing the impact on sea turtles and requiring the use of non-entangling designs. Still, the WCPFC, the tRFMO area where the greatest number of annual FAD deployments probably occurs, does not have a measure in place requiring non-entangling designs to be used for this gear.
Significant ecological effects remain to be addressed, particularly regarding the incidental and unsustainable catch of bigeye and yellowfin, and recovery of lost and abandoned FADs. Information on FADs should be improved through the sharing of satellite buoy data and marking of rafts. Additionally, where the tRFMOs have adopted strategies to mitigate FAD impacts, those strategies should be reviewed periodically to assess what works and identify opportunities for improvement. tRFMOs should share lessons learned through efforts such as the Joint Tuna RFMO FAD Working Group.
Proven and promising strategies have been identified to manage FADs. The four tropical tuna RFMOs should now agree to take steps that allow for FAD use within safe biological parameters and to adopt measures appropriate to their fisheries. Policymakers can safeguard the health of the marine environment; they just need the will to implement these solutions.
Forum Fisheries Ministers announced the appointment of the incoming Director General of the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA), Dr Manumatavai Tupou-Roosen, at the conclusion of the 15th Forum Fisheries Committee Ministerial meeting which was held in the Cook Islands on 3-5 July and chaired by Cook Islands Prime Minister and Minister of Marine Resources, Honourable Henry Puna.
“We are delighted to announce Dr Tupou-Roosen as the new Director General of FFA. She is very committed to the FFA’s role as a facilitator of regional cooperation on fisheries management within the Pacific region and has excellent strategies for leading the FFA into the next decade as it helps members develop their offshore fisheries,” Honourable Puna said.
He added that “The best thing about it all is that the decision was by unanimous agreement of all of the Fisheries Ministers.”
Responding to her appointment, Dr Tupou-Roosen, who is currently head of the FFA Legal Services, said: “I am very humbled to be chosen as the incoming Director General and sincerely thank our Members for this great honour.”
“I very much look forward to working with Deputy Director-General Matt Hooper and all of our staff to serve our Members. We have a clear mission to ensure the sustainable use of our offshore fishery resources increases the economic and social benefits for all our Pacific people and I am committed to following through on that mission.”
“I see Empowerment, Communication and Collaboration as critical tools to ensuring successful Cooperation and to ensuring our Pacific people prosper. Strengthening our mechanisms to combat IUU fishing and enhancing social benefits will also be top of mind for me. I will be making these a priority when I take up the role.”
The selection process for the Director General was extensive and ran over a twelve-month period. Dr Tupou-Roosen will take up her new position in mid-November 2018, replacing Mr James Movick, who has held the role since 2008.
Dr Manumatavai Tupou-Roosen
Dr Manumatavai Tupou-Roosen has worked for nearly 20 years in the area of fisheries, including 13 years as the FFA Legal Counsel. In this role she has been responsible for providing legal and strategic advice to the Director General on significant Agency-wide issues.
Dr Tupou-Roosen gained a Masters of Law in 1997 under a NZ scholarship with a focus on International Fisheries and achieved First Class Honours. She also gained a PhD in Law in 2004 under a Commonwealth Scholarship, with a focus on International and Regional Fisheries Compliance.
In pursuing her education, Dr Tupou-Roosen was always intent on returning and serving in the area of fisheries in our region.
In her role as Legal Counsel of the FFA, Dr Tupou-Roosen had a long list of achievements, including:
Leading the drafting group on the revised texts of the US Tuna Treaty and its related instruments during the negotiations from 2009-2016;
Driving the successful implementation of the multilateral Niue Treaty Subsidiary Agreement at regional and national levels, including securing funds to support implementation at the regional level through an in-house legal advisor position for this specific work, and for in-country work at the national level;
Initiating innovative ways of dealing with issues, such as developing a strategy to broaden the Agency’s approach to addressing IUU fishing from a vessel-focus to include profiling the actual IUU fishers (Persons of Interest), which has been supported by Members;
Directing the revision of the Harmonised Minimum Terms and Conditions (MTCs) for the safety of observers, and led Secretariat support to Members in the lead-up to adoption of the Observer Safety measure by the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission;
Initiating the comprehensive review of the MTCs in 2013 and 2014 and re-established its role as a strategic tool to set leading in-zone standards to drive compatible measures for the high seas;
Forging an effective partnership with SPC to deliver legislative reviews and maritime boundaries solutions;
Initiating the Legal Graduate Programme to ensure that nationals of FFA member countries are exposed to, and interested in, fisheries at an early stage in their careers.
In a move to enhance tuna fisheries management in the Pacific, the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) committed NZD 4.9million to the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) yesterday.
This funding will be used by FFA to support a project that will establish and enhance catch documentation schemes (CDS) for FFA members over the next five years. The new Grant Funding Agreement was signed by Fletcher Tabuteau, Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs, New Zealand and FFA Deputy Director General, Matthew Hooper.
“FFA Members work collectively to effectively manage their Pacific tuna fisheries, and this project will support members to access high value export markets while tackling illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing” said Mr Hooper on accepting the funding support.
The project aims to ensure FFA’s Pacific Island members maintain market access for their fishery products, by improving traceability along supply chains through the integration of fisheries monitoring, control and surveillance systems, the implementation of electronic reporting and the development of technological solutions to strengthen national capacity.
The project provides support for the development of national and regional CDS frameworks, national regulatory and policy frameworks and the development of CDS tools and associated training and capacity building.
The agreement follows almost two years of preparation and builds on work being undertaken to strengthen port state measures in the Pacific and complementing the existing comprehensive regional monitoring, control and surveillance framework implemented by FFA members.
About Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA)
FFA was established to help their 17 member countries sustainably manage their fishery resources that fall within their 200 mile Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs). FFA is an advisory body providing expertise, technical assistance and other support to its members who make sovereign decisions about their tuna resources and participate in regional decision making on tuna management through agencies such as the Western Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC). www.ffa.int
The time is ideal for the Western and Central Pacific region to put in measures to ensure robust tuna stocks for the future.
The most recent assessments on the tuna stocks in the region by the Pacific Community (SPC) show they are all in the green zone, with fishing activity at sustainable levels.
Bubba Cook, Western and Central Pacific Tuna Programme Manager at WWF (World Wide Fund), says taking the right measures will help the region address issues that other regions have failed to address, notably depleted stocks.
“We have a chance to get management right. The resources are robust and stock levels are in the green zone,” Cook says. “We don’t want to end up like other places around the world where they have seen the stock collapse and have to talk about recovery.
“These countries have seen the economic consequences. We are in a really good position to sort out problems other regions have not addressed successfully.”
The state of tuna stocks
Assessments of the four major tuna stocks have been completed recently: yellowfin and bigeye tuna in 2017, skipjack in 2016 and albacore in 2015.
Dr John Hampton, chief scientist and deputy director of SPC’s Division of Fisheries, Aquaculture and Marine Ecosystems (FAME), says they usually assess the stock level of at least one species every three years in order to evaluate different management strategies.
According to the assessment, skipjack tuna stock stands at 58 per cent, yellowfin at 33 per cent, albacore at 40 per cent and bigeye tuna at 32 per cent. Pacific bluefin is at historic low at 2.6 per cent.
“When we say the stock level is at 40 per cent for albacore, it means fish are at a level 40 per cent of what the stock would have been if we never had any fishing,” he says.
“At the moment, skipjack tuna, yellowfin and bigeye are not overfished, and nor is overfishing occurring.”
A new understanding of the growth rates of bigeye tuna meant that the scientific assessment of these stocks changed last year. The assessment of bigeye tuna was amended from ‘overfished’ to ‘not being overfished’.
“It’s quite a big level of depletion before we say it’s overfished, which means that these stocks are pretty resilient,” he says. “A stock is not classified as ‘overfished’ until the spawning population is reduced to less than 20 per cent of the unfished level.”
A rebuilding plan for Pacific Bluefin has been implemented by the Northern Committee of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC). The initial target is to increase the spawning biomass to the 20% level. This has involved catch restrictions particularly on those fisheries catching very small Pacific bluefin tuna (PBF). The International Scientific Committee for Tuna and Tuna-Like Species in the North Pacific Ocean has responsibility for assessments of PBF.
Future forecast on tuna stock
In Dr Hampton’s view, the main scientific advice and current management aims to keep things stable at current levels. In case of albacore, he says they would like to increase the size of the stock “a bit”.
And in order to achieve that, the catch has to be reduced. Finding agreement is a difficult issue for the FFA and the member countries.
“The problem with the albacore fishery is an economic problem rather than a biological problem”, he says. “They are sustainable as a stock in the long term”.
Some of the longline boats based in Pacific island countries face difficulty in being profitable at the current catch rates and economic conditions that prevail in the fishery.
Costs are high, but prices are low and so are catch rates. The poor catch rates are a consequence of the larger fish being depleted and they are the ones normally caught by longline fishers.
To make the fishery more profitable, fishing nations would have to allow the larger fish time to develop and that means reducing current catch rates. It has proved difficult to reach agreement on this.
“But if you get a better price for the albacore than is currently being paid there is less of a need to reduce current levels of catch,” Dr Hampton says.
“The problem with albacore is that fish are sold to canneries at $2.50 to $3 a kilo, whereas if fishers sell it at a fresh fish market they get three times the (cannery) price. These markets do exist in places like New Caledonia and Tahiti, and so the longline fisheries based there can make a good profit.”
Politics sometimes clashes with good management
Bubba Cook says it is important to keep politics out of management measures if tuna stock are going to remain sustainable in the future.
“The use of harvest strategies or harvest control rules based on a particular benchmark takes politics out of the issue,” he says. “It allows science and actual policy and management perspectives to set the limits.”
This will give the region a process that actually responds to the biological and economic conditions in fisheries.
“When you get some of the politics out of fisheries, you can actually see better management of our fisheries,” Cook says.
A Taiwanese purse seiner hauls its catch in the western Pacific. Photo: GreenpeaceA purse seine tuna fishery in the western and central Pacific shared by the US, China and Taiwan — and supplying tuna company FCF Fishery of Taiwan — has achieved Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification.
The South Pacific Tuna Corporation (SPTC), in conjunction with FCF and the Western Pacific Sustainable Tuna Alliance, announced the central Pacific skipjack and yellowfin free-school purse seine fishery had achieved and received the MSC standard on June 22.
The fishery is operated by US, China, and Taiwan-flagged vessels. Authorized vessels principally fish for skipjack and yellowfin tuna within the exclusive economic zones of countries that are Parties to the Nauru Agreement, as well as the high seas.
“This certification is an important step we have worked diligently towards to meet the standards of MSC. We are proud to be the leader in driving sustainable practices, as well as establishing a standard that exceeds that of the NGO community,” said Ray Clarke, vice president of environmental development and government affairs at SPTC.
According to Clarke, the companies will now provide in excess of 100,000 metric tons of MSC-certified tuna to the global market.
The certification comes amid Greenpeace allegations of labor abuses on tuna vessels supplying FCF Taiwan. However, Taiwanese fishing authorities have said the allegations refer to old cases, while industry sources have also queried the connection with FCF.
The eight Pacific Island nations and territory in the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) tuna fishery, the world’s largest, have organized the tuna industry’s first large blockchain initiative, promising to give retailers, consumers and environmental groups information about vessels, captains, locations of harvest and when fish was processed.
The development was announced at the SeaWeb Sustainable Seafood Summit, in Barcelona, Spain, this week by Pacifical, the market development company that represents the eight nations, including the Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, the Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Tuvalu, and also the territory of Tokelau.
The initiative, which is set to be launched by the end of July, is being developed with the help of Atato, a Thailand-based provider of blockchain services.
The fishery represents 25% of the world’s tuna landings, according to a press release. The initiative will cover more than 100 large fishing vessels and “the entire supply chain and chain of custody of about 35 million tuna fish caught annually in an area with a surface 40% bigger than Europe”, the release said.
On 18 June 2018 the Council adopted a regulation setting out revised rules on management, conservation and control measures applicable in the South Pacific Regional Fisheries Management Organisation Convention Area (SPRFMO).
The aim of the new rules is to make sure that the conservation and management measures adopted by the SPRFMO are fully transposed into EU law and effectively implemented. Among other things, the regulation incorporates into EU legislation the decisions taken at the sixth meeting of the SPRFMO Commission (COMM6) in Lima, Peru, from 30 January to 3 February 2018.
The SPRFMO is an inter-governmental organisation that is committed to the long-term conservation and sustainable use of the fishery resources of the South Pacific Ocean. The European Union is a contracting party. Currently, the main commercial resources fished in the SPRFMO area are Jack mackerel and jumbo flying squid in the Southeast Pacific and, to a much lesser degree, deep-sea species often associated with seamounts in the Southwest Pacific.
The regulation will enter into force on the third day following that of its publication in the Official Journal of the European Union.
Every year, the Pacific government fisheries agencies have to provide a report to the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC). This information is included in data summaries at the annual WCPFC Scientific Committee meeting.
It’s a big job, and to help countries put together these reports, the Pacific Community (SPC) has developed a set of Country Web Pages for each member country. The main focus of the pages is on producing graphics for inclusion in reports and presentations.
Steven Hare of SPC’s Oceanic Fisheries Program provides data and information for the Country Web Pages (CWPs) through his role with the Oceanic and Fisheries Management Project (OFMP2).
He says they give countries easy access to nicely formatted graphics that they can use for reports and take to meetings. Access is guarded by a password, so confidential information is carefully protected.
“The web site has dedicated pages, one per country,” Dr Hare says. “Each one includes all the commercial catch data, all the observer data and it’s properly formatted and displayed in a variety of readable and simple graphs.
“It simplifies the whole job of producing colourful, accurate and attractive reports.”
Each of the member countries has a password-protected unique portal accessible only to their country’s data and plots. The focus of the CWPs is on producing graphics for inclusion in reports and presentations, but the data for many of the plots can also be exported as spreadsheets (.csv files). The data and plots are updated roughly four times per year.
In addition to the plots and data, the CWPs provide access to many country-relevant reports produced at SPC over the years (e.g., on FAD-closures, oceanographic effects, bycatch value and seasonality).
The main source of information for the CWPs is the commercial data from the main fisheries: purse seine, longline, and pole and line. The site provides a summary of statistics of each of these different fisheries.
Dr Hare says the data is regularly updated and displayed spatially so that fishing nations can see not just the catch data but also useful information such as data from observers and the fishing hotspots.
“Having data from different sources gives us a check on the commercial data and provides additional information not included in information from the commercial vessels. The vessels tend to report only the catches of the important tuna species,” he says.
The observer data provides bycatch information as well as information on the species of special interest, the SSIs, like turtles and sharks and seabirds caught in fishing operations.
“Because the commercial vessels don’t retain these species of special interest they don’t report them, but there’s a lot of interest in the catch of these other species by non-government organisations. And it’s important to fishing nations if they want certification as a sustainable fishery, something many buyers are looking for,” Dr Hare says.
The Country Web Pages give Pacific countries immediate access to information that they need in advance of them pursuing marine stewardship certification.
“It gives them a handle on what’s actually going on. They can already access a lot of this data through our other databases but some of our summaries are pretty complex and it’s not so easy to read. The Country Web Pages give them easy access to nicely formatted graphics that they can use for reports and scientific meetings,” he says.
But given the ease of access and the amount of useful information they contain, Dr Hare is surprised fishing nations do not make more use of the Country Web Pages.
“I think they’re under-used, considering the amount of work that goes into them and the value of the data,” he says.
“There have been cases where people have come to us and asked if we can give them information on fishing matters, and we’ll show them the access to their webpages. They’re pleasantly surprised at the amount of information that’s already there.”
He says people forget how good the pages are. This might be a consequence of staff turnover, and passwords that get lost as people move on.
“These Country Web Pages do provide a one-stop shopping experience for all the fishery data that’s been collected for individual countries,” he says. “They are a great help when countries are preparing what’s called a Part 1 report for the annual Western Central Pacific Fishery Commission meetings, because they summarise the catch and the bycatch of SSIs and the amount of fishing effort taking place in their zone”.
Steven says that countries have an obligation to provide these reports for the WCPFC meetings.
“They can get all that information directly from the Country Web Pages we provide if they choose to do so. The other option is for them to make their own summaries, obtain the data if they wish, but we’ve actually provided them with the tools to go right directly to the Country Web Pages and get everything that they need.”
He says he hopes countries will make more use of the Country Webpages. To encourage wider use, SPC have begun to include a training session on them in their stock assessment workshops.
The data available on the individual country pages varies from country to country and depends on what is available but might include up to 60 different categories. Below is a sample of 10 of these categories:
Total catch of target species by gear
Total catch of target species (all catch within EEZ and national catch outside EEZ)
Total catch by target species (all catch within EEZ)
Longline fishing effort (aggregated by decade) (within EEZ)
Purse seine fishing effort (aggregated by decade) (within EEZ)
Pole and line fishing effort (aggregated by decade) (within EEZ)
Longline fishing effort – within EEZ by each flag, by year
Longline fishing effort – total aggregated within EEZ, by year
Purse seine fishing effort – within EEZ by each flag, by year
Purse seine fishing effort – total aggregated within EEZ, by year
Pole and line fishing effort – within EEZ by each flag, by year
The 15th Infofish World Tuna Trade Conference and Exhibition opened on 28 May in Bangkok, Thailand. The three-day conference covered resources, fisheries management, markets, new technologies, food safety, sustainability, and environmental issues.
Among the sponsors was the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). Jong-Jin Kim, FAO’s deputy regional representative for Asia and the Pacific, said during his opening address that the international community now has at its disposal a number of new and powerful instruments with the potential to drastically reduce and eliminate illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing, including the FAO Port State Measures Agreement (PSMA), the FAO Voluntary Guidelines on Catch Documentation Schemes and the FAO Global Record of Fishing Vessels.
FAO Fishery Planning Analyst for Asia and the Pacific Cassandra De Young explained the various programs to SeafoodSource.
The 2009 FAO Agreement on Port State Measures (PSMA) is the first binding international agreement to specifically target IUU fishing. Its objective is to prevent, deter, and eliminate IUU fishing by preventing vessels engaged in IUU fishing from using ports and landing their catches. Entering into force in June 2016, 54 States and the European Union have joined forces by becoming Parties to the PSMA, as of May 2018.
FAO Voluntary Guidelines on Catch Documentation Schemes were officially adopted by the FAO Conference in July 2017 and, with seafood trade at record highs and consumer demand still rising, CDS are increasingly seen as an effective tool. For example, since 2010, the European Union has used a CDS that covers all fish shipments imported into the bloc from overseas; and in 2016, the United States announced its own scheme, the Seafood Import Monitoring Program (SIMP). In 2017, ASEAN adopted the voluntary ASEAN Catch Documentation Scheme for Marine Capture Fisheries to enhance intra-regional and international trade of fish and fish products.
“The FAO Voluntary Guidelines on Catch Documentation Schemes is the first international policy document that provides a ‘gold standard’ for governments and businesses looking to establish systems that can trace fish from their point of capture through the entire supply chain – from ‘sea to plate’ – in order to stop illegally caught fish from entering the marketplace,” De Young said.
The Global Record of Fishing Vessels, Refrigerated Transport Vessels and Supply Vessels (the Global Record) is a collaborative, global initiative to make available, in a rapid way, certified data from State authorities about vessels and vessel-related activities. The Global Record provides a single access point for information on vessels used for fishing and fishing-related activities with the primary objective being to combat IUU fishing by enhancing transparency and traceability.
Key to the Global Record, De Young said, is the Unique Vessel Identifier (UVI) – a global unique number that is assigned to a vessel to ensure traceability through reliable, verified, and permanent identification of the vessel. Once assigned, the UVI is with the vessel for its entire life, regardless of changes in flag, ownership, or name. To date, IMO numbers have been allocated to more than 23,000 fishing vessels worldwide. Countries are closing the net on IUU fishing as countries around the globe, De Young said, calling out Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Panama, Peru, Thailand, the United States of America, Vanuatu and the European Union member states for praise, as all have started disseminating their data through the Global Record Information System. Launched in April, 2017, the Global Record initially includes larger vessels (100 gross tonnage, or 24 meters and above) but aims, over time, to include official information on vessels all the way to 10-50 GT or between 12 and 18 meters.
Japan is the second-largest contributor to the FAO’s budget. Keiko Okabe, a communication specialist at the FAO’s Japan Liaison Office, said FAO’s leading initiatives in Japan including implementation of Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems and zero hunger initiatives funded by Japan’s Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries (MAFF).
“The FAO, as a whole, has been implementing a project in supporting developing countries to achieve sustainable fisheries, and to eliminate IUU, which is funded by MAFF,” Okabe told SeafoodSource.