A three-month prohibition on deploying, servicing or setting on FADs shall be in place between 0001 hours UTC on 1 July and 2359 hours UTC on 30 September each year for all purse seine vessels, tender vessels, and any other vessels operating in support of purse seine vessels fishing in exclusive economic zones and the high seas in the area between 20N and 20S.*
*Members of the PNA may implement the FAD set management measures consistent with the Third Arrangement Implementing the Nauru Agreement of May 2008. Members of the PNA shall provide notification to the Commission of the domestic vessels to which the FAD closure will not apply. That notification shall be provided within 15 days of the arrangement being approved.
Pacific Islands fishery leaders are said to be content with the results of last weekend’s Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) meeting in Hawaii, US, reports theHerdon Gazette.
Agreements have been made to maintain current tuna catch limits, minimum standards of labor for fishing crews, and increasing the involvement of small island states in the day-to-day business of the WCPFC.
While the US had initially been planning a push to increase its tuna catch quotas, these were ultimately withdrawn, as the tropical tuna measure remains in place.
An additional two-month prohibition on the use of fish aggregating devices (FADs) by purse seiners on the high seas has been implemented, while limits on the use of FADs for three months from July 1 remain in place.
“FAD closures are an important conservation action that reduces catch of juvenile bigeye and yellowfin tuna,” Ludwig Kumoru, head of the parties to the Nauru agreement, told the Gazette.
“Maintaining the FAD closures is contributing to sustainably managing our tuna stocks.”
After a few consecutive months of increases coinciding with the western central Pacific Ocean (WCPO) ban on fish aggregating devices (FADs), skipjack tuna prices for delivery in Bangkok, Thailand, have started “leveling off”, industry sources told Undercurrent News.
As fishing with FADs restarts in the WCPO, prices might even fall further, according to sources. The FAD ban, established by the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission, runs from July 1 for three months for the majority of the fishing fleet in the WCPO. It will remain in place for some countries in the region also during October.
“My impression is that the skipjack market in Thailand is starting to level off now. Western Pacific fish is selling at around $1,650 per metric ton still, with Indian Ocean fish fetching up to $1,700/t CFR,” one US-based trader told Undercurrent.
“This is a normal differential between the two sources due to the EU or ACP [African, Caribbean or Pacific] credentials of the Indian Ocean fish as well as reputedly slightly better yields claimed by some canners over Western Pacific fish,” he added.
“Bangkok [skipjack prices] increased to $1,700/t during the last days of September; at the beginning of October, however, there has been a slightly declining trade,” a second source at a European fishing firm told Undercurrent, pointing to prices in the range of $1,660-1,670/t.
Thai Union Group indicated skipjack tuna raw material in September averaged $1,650/t (see graph above).
“Boats in the WCPO are fishing back on FADs, so catching generally should improve, and I think a number of canners are tempted to back off buying aggressively to see if the market will stabilize and perhaps even fall off from its current level,” the first source added.
“There are some in Asia that foresee a rapid drop in price, but that’s not evident today. If that does happen, we will be back in a pattern of wild price swings yet again, which serves very little purpose and makes fishermen, canners and finished goods buyers’ lives more difficult,” he also said.
Meanwhile, a source in Ecuador pointed out that about half of the local fleet, which is the largest in the region, stayed in port during the 72-day “veda” fishing ban effective from July 29. Catches are going well and prices also, he also noted, pointing to skipjack prices at about $100/t above Bangkok level, which Undercurrent indicated at $1,650/t.
FAO: Global trade in the first quarter of 2018
Global imports of canned tuna were below last year’s in most leading markets during the first quarter of 2018, with the exception of the US, according to a new report produced by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations. Demand improved since April/May, FAO said in the report, which analyzed global tuna trade in the first quarter of 2018.
International trade of canned tuna remained weak worldwide during the first quarter of 2018, according to FAO. Consumer demand remained low and many markets were holding sufficient stocks imported last year.
Following a weaker demand, particularly for conventional canned tuna in brine or in oil, in most of the markets, exports declined from the top two suppliers — Thailand and Ecuador — during the first three months of 2018, FAO said.
The increased exports from Indonesia during the reporting period was a result of higher exports of cooked loins to Thailand, the US, and Italy and also higher exports of canned tuna to North America, Europe and Middle East markets. Exports of cooked loins increased from Indonesia and China to Thailand and Europe, FAO said.
The US and Japanese markets registered positive import growth for the first quarter of 2018, compared with the same period a year ago, according to FAO analysis.
Improved consumer demand for higher value canned tuna seemed to be the supporting factor in the US. The lull in the substantial Middle Eastern market persisted, particularly in the large market of Egypt where demand recovery has been slow, indicating the availability of good stocks. Imports from Southeast Asia increased marginally in Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Yemen during the review period. There were higher imports in many East Asian markets, FAO also pointed out.
At the beginning of 2018, one of the top three US canned tuna brands introduced a new range of gourmet tuna products (ready to eat yellowfin tuna slices) suitable for delis and restaurants. In May, at the Infofish Tuna 2018, leading US marketers reaffirmed the positive demand trend for similar types of processed higher value tuna with convenient packaging (in pouch or ready to eat kits) among the middle and higher income younger population group in North American markets emphasizing that “currently they are the smallest but the fastest growing household consumers in the US”, FAO said. The import increase of higher value canned albacore and tuna in pouch in the US during the review period is a reflection of this development, FAO also said.
There was no improvement in the Canadian canned tuna trade, where imports declined by 27% during the first half of 2018 compared to the same period in 2017, with falling exports from the top suppliers, namely Thailand, the Philippines, Italy, and Vietnam, but increased from Indonesia.
In Latin America, demand for canned tuna increased during the first quarter of 2018. There were two-digit import growths in Colombia, Argentina, Mexico, Brazil and Uruguay during the review period.
Canned tuna imports into the EU remained weak during the first quarter of 2018, as the market had unsold stocks from last year’s imports, FAO said. Another reason for the drop in supplies was the high raw material price in 2018. Imports of both canned tuna and cooked loins declined by 9% during this period compared with the same period in 2017. Cooked loins represented 30%, 52,000t of the total processed tuna imports in the EU28, according to FAO.
The EU28 canned tuna market was largely supplied by external sources, which accounted for 73% of supply, or 127,800t.
Ecuadorean supply was down 17.6% to 26,100t, China up 62% to 16,500t, the Philippines up 10% to 12,700t, Mauritius down 21% to 10,500t and Indonesia up 67% to 9,100t.
There were higher imports of canned tuna by Russia, which rose 8% to 762t.
Although Japanese imports of fresh and frozen seafood were 6% lower in the first quarter of 2018 than a year ago, consumer demand for canned tuna continued to rise during this period, with imports up by 1.7% to 13,800t. Thailand, the leading supplier to Japan, managed to hold its position with a marginal increase in supply, while China and Vietnam increased exports by 70% and 30% respectively.
Australia is traditionally a market for high value canned tuna but, during the first three months of 2018, imports from the main supplier Thailand dropped by 24% to 9,600t. In contrast, imports of cheaper product (canned tuna in brine and others) increased from Indonesia (+26%, 1,500t) and from Vietnam (+175%, 80t). Overall, canned tuna imports in Australia declined by 19% during the review period, according to FAO.
Imports have increased also in Malaysia, China, Hong Kong, and South Korea during the first three months of 2018, compared with the same period a year ago. In an effort to capture the high-end seafood market in east Asia, tuna packers in the Philippines launched higher value canned tuna (yellowfin tuna chunks in lemon and pepper, in herb and garlic, in mild Indian curry, packed in 90g cans). Reportedly, the products launched early this year were met with positive consumer acceptance in Southeast Asian markets.
This year’s introduction of value-added tuna products in the US and Southeast Asian markets is expected to induce consumer demand for processed tuna, particularly in Asian markets, FAO said.
The US market for non-canned tuna products continues to show strong demand, particularly for the frozen category. Market penetration for tasteless smoke and carbon monoxide treaded products has increased in retail and restaurant chain outlets, with rising prices in recent years, FAO said.
During the first three months of 2018, US imports of frozen fillet steaks increased by 13% to 8,100t, in comparison with imports during the same period in 2017. A large share of these imports consisted of treated products in general. The main suppliers were Indonesia, Vietnam, the Philippines and Thailand FAO said.
Meanwhile, demand for sashimi tuna in Japan was high during the Spring festival celebrations in April and May 2018, but slowed down afterward. Imports of both fresh and frozen tuna were negative during the first quarter of 2018. Throughout the peak consumption season of April and May, the market sourced more local fresh tuna, supported by the Japanese government’s policy to increase self-sufficiency in food fish supply, FAO said.
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.
Improvements in the design of fish-aggregating devices (FADs) could make a major difference in improving the sustainability and efficiency of skipjack tuna fishing in the Pacific Ocean, according to the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation.
The Washington, D.C.-based NGO is pushing for better FAD management and practices, focusing on the skipjack fishery in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean. It asserts that improvements in the design of FADs could help to cut bycatch of overfished bigeye and yellowfin tuna, as well as other species like sharks, dolphinfish, and turtles.
From surveys by the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) – an organization made up of Pacific Island nations that control a large amount of tuna resources within their exclusive economic zones (EEZ) – as many as 50,000 FADs are likely now in use in the Western and Central Pacific tuna fishery, up from 30,000 just five years ago.
FADs became more popular in the 1990s due to dolphin-free campaigns and regulations. Tuna seiners used to locate tuna by spotting and tracking down dolphins and seabirds feeding on the schools, but in catching the tuna they also netted and killed dolphins. FADs, which can be as simple as a bamboo raft trailing some disused netting, then came into common use. Fish tend to gather around FADs, though the reason for this behavior is not well known.
Some disadvantages of FADs soon became apparent. Many FADs end up abandoned, lost, or discarded, contributing to the problem of plastic litter in the sea. There is also a higher bycatch rate when fishing on FADs, with particular concern about juvenile bycatch of overfished bigeye and yellowfin tuna, as well as sharks, rays, and sea turtles. But two trends are currently transforming the traditional FAD into a more modern, and potentially less environmentally harmful, product.
The first is that attached GPS satellite devices now allow the use of drifting FADs (DFADs). While the cost of the GPS and sonar can be more than JPY 100,000 (USD 1,000, EUR 800) per unit, vessels pay large fees based on the number of fishing days they spend in an EEZ, so they find it profitable to make the most efficient use of their days. Additionally, attaching a sonar device to a DFAD allows fishermen to remotely monitor which ones have attracted a large biomass underneath. A vessel may then focus its effort on the FADs that will yield the most fish for their effort.
As advances in technology greatly increase the number of fish a single seiner may catch, regional fisheries management organizations (RFMOs) such as the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission have been considering strategies to manage their use. Fishing effort is usually managed by vessel days and gear, but the increased use and efficiency of electronic DFADs may now merit their inclusion as regulated gear.
The ISSF has made that recommendation to the WCPFC, along with several others. In some fisheries, supply and support vessels set DFADs, so that fishing vessels can concentrate on catching fish. The ISSF recommends the regulation or banning of setting FADs from support vessels as one way to reduce fishing effort in its report titled “ISSF 2016-11: ISSF Survey Paper on the Treatment of Supply Vessels.”
As DFADs are equipped with transmitters, it should be possible to supply all of the data to fisheries managers to allow them to better understand the number and location of DFADs, better estimate stocks of fish, and to pick up oceanographic data such as water temperature and movement of currents, according to the ISSF.
In addition to better data sharing, the organization is encouraging the WCPFC to mandate non-entangling DFAD design to reduce shark mortality. Most DFADs in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean are made with bamboo rafts trailing large-mesh seine nets –considered to be high entangling-risk FADs. ISSF is promoting an industry-wide conversion to less entangling-risk FADs and non-entangling FADs. The former are made of smaller mesh nets, such as those used for anchovies and sardines, while the latter are made of ropes and canvas, with biodegradable materials preferred to address the plastic waste problem.
This conversion will help reduce mortalities of oceanic whitetip and silky sharks, which are the sharks found most frequently around DFADs. Because these sharks must keep moving to pass water over their gills, when they get caught in the net of a DFAD, they cannot swim and soon die. As the carcasses may subsequently become free and fall off the net, this phenomenon is called “cryptic fishing” bycatch, as it generally isn’t noticed or recorded.
One recommendation the ISSF isn’t making is an outright ban on FADs, as every fishing method has its own problems. Rather, they seek to improve their design and management. The PNA has applied FAD closures in the past order to protect overfished bigeye tuna from being taken as bycatch, but found that overall catches of bigeye did not decline, as fishing effort was refocused to the high seas after the ban went into place in its EEZ.
The ISSF has numerous other recommendations for the WCPFC and other RFMOs overseeing large tuna fisheries, including the use of scientific assessments in setting catch rates and greater observer coverage of the fishing fleet. The current push is on the WCPFC because other RFMOs have already established working groups to consider measures to manage FADs.
“In the WCPO, FAD sets account for about 30 percent of tropical tuna catches. There is a need globally for measures that help better monitor and manage FAD usage in every ocean region,” ISSF President Susan Jackson said. “Shark mortality and other FAD-fishing ecosystem impacts in the WCPO also have to be addressed, for which the wide-scale adoption of non-entangling FAD designs is a critical step.”
Member countries and territories of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) have agreed to adopt measures to conserve stocks of tropical tuna even as conservation groups criticised the decision to increase the catch limit of bigeye tuna.According to consensus reached at the 14th regular session of the commission which concluded on 8 December in Manila, the “bridging measures”, such as regulating and monitoring the use of fish aggregating device (FAD) and long lines of baited hooks, will be in place for three years while WCPFC members prepare a comprehensive tuna harvest strategy covering catch limits and spawn stocks.“Conservation and management measures shall ensure, at a minimum, that stocks are maintained at levels capable of producing maximum sustainable yield, pending agreement on target reference points as part of the harvest strategy approach,” said the draft agreement (7 December).
The 26-member WCPFC, the governing body for international agreement on migratory fish in the Pacific, are composed mostly of small island states in the Pacific but also include developed countries such as Australia, Canada, Japan and the United States.
The WCPFC said the use of FADs will be prohibited for three months in the exclusive economic zones (EEZs) and two months in the high seas. Exempted are Kiribati-flagged vessels operating in the high seas adjacent to Kiribati’s EEZ and Philippine vessels fishing in corresponding situations.
FADs are semi-permanent floating structure made from any materials used to lure fish such as tuna. But FADs end up trapping other marine animals like sharks, sea turtles and dolphins, and also catch young tuna, precluding them from breeding.
Conservation and public interest groups welcomed the measures, but were critical of the commission’s decision to increase the catch limit of bigeye tuna by nearly 10 per cent. Critics have pointed out that the Commission misinterpreted the Scientific Committee’s report in August as suggesting that the bigeye is not overfished.
Holly Koehler, vice-president, International Seafood Sustainability Foundation, Washington, explains the scientific committee of the WCPFC had referred to uncertainty in the bigeye stock status and recommended to maintain the current level so as not to decrease biomass.
“That’s why we asked that fishing mortality on bigeye and yellowfin tuna stocks not increase from current levels to maintain current or increased spawning levels until the commission can agree on appropriate target reference points,” Koehler tells SciDev.Net.
Amanda Nickson, a director at Pew Charitable Trusts, says raising the catch limit will weigh on the bigeye’s biomass. “Commission members should ensure negotiations start immediately toward a stronger measure next year, to ensure precautionary, science-based management of its fisheries,” she says.
The western and central Pacific Ocean accounted for nearly 60 per cent of the global tuna catch in 2016, worth over US$ five billion.
WHEN the Pacific met its international partners at the 12th Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission in Bali, Indonesia in 2015 it was grappling with illegal operations at sea.
Figures at the time claimed that Illegal, Unregulated and Unreported fisheries activities cost around $USD600million annually in the Pacific.
And 95 per cent of that activity – according to the international environment advocate, Greenpeace – is conducted by licensed vessels.
Robust guidelines put in place by the Forum Fisheries Agency have attempted to increase monitoring and surveillance of the purse seine fleet which operates in the region.
With around 90 per cent of the fleet monitored by on-board observers, the purse seiners are estimated to account for 70 per cent of illegal activities.
That’s according to figures released by the Pew Charitable Trust.
A Pew study reports harvested or trans-shipped tuna in the region at about $UDS616.11 million a year – 12 per cent of the $UDS5 billion paid to fishermen for their tuna catches in the region in 2014.
Despite recent efforts and observer coverage, the estimated volume of IUU product was found to be highest in the purse seine fishery, which accounted for 70 per cent of the illegal catch.
Much of that activity was driven by the use of illegal fish aggregating devices.
In the longline fleet transhipment of fish at sea, out of sight of authorities, was the weak point.
The Pew Charitable Trust’s Amanda Nickson said it was clear from the figures that transhipment at sea is unacceptable.
“Our position remains very clearly that transshipment at sea should be banned until there are sufficient controls in place to ensure that we don’t have it operating as a loophole for IUU activities,” Nickson said at the 14th WCPFC Meeting in the Philippines.
“At this point I don’t see that we’re seeing a great deal of political will to address the issue as we would like but we certainly hope to see improved discussion.”
James Gibbon of the Pew Charitable Trusts said the WCPFC initially envisioned transshipment as a rare event.
“Unfortunately because WCPFC has not formalized the guidelines like they were supposed to, they basically rubber stamped any request for long liners to trans-ship,” Gibbon said.
“So at this point, 52 per cent of long liners operating in the WCPFC have the authorization to trans-ship. And that is not what the WCPFC envisioned when they put these regulations in place.”
One of the other issues is confronting the industry is that independent observer reports are often not submitted to the WCPF Secretariat.
In 2016 there were approximately 900 at sea trans-shipments but only one observer report made it to the secretariat.
“So there is very little monitoring of what is going on,” Gibbon said
“There’s a lot of transshipment that initially was thought was not going to occur but as a result of commission inaction has actually allowed this to occur.”
Gibbon believes cooperation from all the relevant authorities is key to the success of any monitoring programme.
“The observer programmes (must make) sure that their reports are submitted both to the national, sub-regional and secretariat,” he said.
“And it’s going to take those authorities working together to cross check between the catch reports of the fishing vessels, the transshipment reports of what actually is transferred and then also the landing reports and making sure that all that information make sense.”
That speaks to a broader ongoing issue of needing a strong compliance regime within the commission.
Amanda Nickson: “We’ve see these trial compliance regimes roll through but we believe they could be more transparent and we believe there needs to be a more formalized and permanent compliance monitoring system in place. “
So, for how long will those discussions continue without concrete measures being put in place to end the illegal activities?
Forum Fisheries Agencies Director-General, James Movick, raised the issue of the need for more observers with the relevant equipment to report illegal activities in real time.
He was asked whether two years after talks in Indonesia the discussion on observers was merely talk without action and completely unachievable.
“No, I think we can achieve it. We’re experimenting,” Movick said.
“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 current work concentrated on how to adapt e-reporting standards for operating conditions in the Pacific.
“We should see a higher degree of monitoring capability for these boats,” Movick said.
“I don’t think it’s an impossible task but as the scientist do, there will be margins of errors built into the scientific analyses. By and large we will have sufficient, verifiable data the scientists will be happy that they’ve got something statistically sound.”
Movick and Ludwig Kumoru – CEO of the Parties to the Nauru Agreement – believe the e-monitoring option is possible in five years.
“With the way PNA is implementing the Vessel Day Scheme for the longline – within five -years is achievable,” Kumoru said.
“But first of all we need to get it done within our zones, then and only then can we look to extend it to the high seas.
The Parties to the Nauru Agreement are the Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, the Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and Tuvalu.
PNA member countries allow tuna fisheries vessel owners to buy days of fishing at sea for a specific monetary value,
This scheme places a limit on the number of vessels operating in the waters of the PNA in an attempt to ensure resource sustainability.
Monitoring at sea, however, is only one part of the equation.
Strong observation measures in ports where fishing boats land their catch are equally important.
Amanda Nickson said strong port-state measures coupled with a credible observer base were two ways to stop IUU fishing.
Two years after Bali the gaps in the system remain
“We don’t yet have comprehensive port-state controls, we don’t yet have significant enough level of observer coverage on long liners and we don’t have a sufficient system in place to ensure the safety of those that were asking to help us ensure the system is legal and verifiable,” Nickson said.