New tuna longline FIPs have potential to turn the tide at RFMO negotiations

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Republished from Seafood Source, 29 January 2019

Tuna longlining’s sustainability credentials can take a big step forward through the two supply chain-supported improvement projects announced this month for albacore fisheries in the Indian Ocean and Western and Central Pacific Ocean, according to NGO project leader Ocean Outcomes (O2).

The Indian Ocean albacore and South Pacific albacore and yellowfin fisheries supply Bumble Bee with around 50,000 metric tons (MT) of tuna, which the North American seafood brand sources through Taiwanese fresh and frozen tuna trader FCF Fishery Company Ltd. 

“As we procure a significant amount of albacore tuna annually to meet demand for our products, we are in a unique position to help ensure the long term sustainability of longline albacore fisheries,” Bumble Bee Vice President of Sustainability Mike Kraft said. “All of that tuna comes from healthy stocks. This initiative will launch two fishery improvement projects [FIPs] to help ensure those stocks remain healthy, while working to close identified gaps between current fishery operations and other [Marine Stewardship Council] principles.”

Daniel Suddaby, vice president of strategy and impact at O2, told SeafoodSource that the aim of the FIPs is to bring the fisheries up to a level of best-practice where they can be entered into full assessment according to the MSC standard within five years without any conditions.

Being longline fisheries, one of the inherent challenges will be generating data, and in particular understanding what the vessels are catching and what they are discarding. Once that information is established, the true impact of the fisheries can be better understood and it can be determined if this is acceptable within the MSC guidelines, and if not, that improvements are made to the operations.

This is one of the key areas that O2 expects to see some important progress, Suddaby said.

As for the best approach for the fisheries to address these information gaps, he said it’s likely that some form of onboard observation – most likely electronic – will bring about data improvements across the fleets. This will lead to a better understanding of the fisheries’ current impacts and the necessary mitigation to reduce these to a sustainable level.

Another central focus is in regard to stock management and the requirement of most MSC fisheries to have effective harvest control rules (HCRs) that can adjust the catch size in relation to the population levels of the target stock.

“Bumble Bee has been forward-thinking in the area of ecosystem impacts. They have already trialed some electronic observers on a number of their vessels and they’re getting that data back. These efforts are at the cutting-edge of transparency and understanding what’s on-board and also where the boats go,” Suddaby said.

He also acknowledged that having the engagement and buy-in from a key industry player is critical to the success of FIPs such as these, as it generates the necessary incentive for the supply chain to adopt change.

“Of course, there are other ways of going about a fishery improvement project – a small-scale community-based FIP, for example, might be working bottom-up with the fishers and then identifying partners as part of that fishery improvement process,” Suddaby said. “But in this case, the tuna fisheries are quite well developed with globally traded products, so you need that buyer commitment up front.”

As such, and beyond achieving MSC accreditation, Suddaby said these new FIPs have the “bigger-picture” potential to connect catching fleets that have so far skirted around committing to robust sustainability plans. This is particularly the case among Northeast Asian longliners.

“I have been working at a tuna RFMO level for some eight years and often one of the key challenges has been engagement at meetings of the Northeast Asian states such as Korea, China, and Japan. These national delegations are not [as good at] working together on the sustainability agenda as those other nations that have much more structured sustainability markets,” Suddaby said. “I think this project is a really great way of engaging those fleets and through that engagement getting much more cohesive and constructive dialogue at the RFMO meetings. This will hopefully drive better management for the fisheries as a whole.”

To support its Northeast Asian tuna fishery improvement work and ramping up the engagement of the region’s longline fleets, O2 has received funding from the U.S.-based Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.

“The FIPs with Bumble Bee really are the flagship of this improvement work,” Suddaby said. “We believe that the conservation community as a whole can use these FIPs as a vehicle to engage governments in positive change at the RFMOs.”

Given time, these and other similar efforts could put tuna longlining on a similar sustainability path now seen in the purse-seine sector, Suddaby said.

“I have seen the purse-seine sector make great strides along the road to sustainability. I also think tuna longlining could be on a similar trajectory, but it’s earlier in the process,” he said. “It’s exciting that we might be seeing a shift with the sector, which is traditionally more challenging, particularly with its larger bycatch.”

While tuna longlining is a lot less centralized than purse-seining and traditionally the investment in boats and the involvement from big brands is not at the same level, Suddaby said there are early signs of change, and the engagement of both Bumble Bee and FCF could be considered something of a game-changer. 

“It’s starting; some of the interest in improvement and leverage is beginning to be there,” he said. “In getting these companies engaged with our project, I’m hopeful that the outreach and engagement from other longliners will increase and that will accelerate the movement towards better sustainability. This is what we’ve seen in other catching sectors, including purse-seine.”

Author: Jason Holland

Pacific fisheries officials plan for sustainable and profitable longline fisheries

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Fisheries Managers from across the Pacific met in Honiara last week to discuss strategies for ensuring sustainable and profitable longline fisheries in the Pacific.

Although scientists currently rate the southern longline fishery, primarily targeting southern albacore tuna, as biologically sustainable with no overfishing, there is concern about the economic viability of this fishery.

This fishery is currently affected by poor economic conditions, due to the relatively low value of the fish, the relatively high costs of Pacific island based fishing operations, and declining catch rates. This is of concern given that many Pacific Island Countries and Territories (PICTs) have domestic longline fisheries.

Low profitability is also an issue in the tropical longline fishery, which limits the economic benefits that Pacific island coastal States can get from their longline resources.

Last week’s workshop, facilitated by Alice McDonald, consultant at NRE People, sought to explore the issues facing longline fisheries, and develop some strategies for overcoming these issues.

Fisheries Managers worked together to explore and develop strategies for overcoming the issues facing longline fisheries. Image: Jenni Metcalfe

The Oceanic Fisheries Management project (OFMP2) supported the workshop, which aims to have a regional longline strategy ready to present to the Forum Fisheries Committee in July next year.

Participants in the workshop identified the following key objectives:

  • Avoiding a collapse in the target tuna fish stocks
  • Ensuring economic sustainability – employment and livelihoods
  • Minimising environmental impacts
  • Respecting human rights, including safety of observers on boats
  • Improving monitoring, surveillance and compliance, especially given the uncertainty of data about Illegal, Unreported or Unregulated (IUU) fishing

A MRAG study into longline fishing of tropical tuna species indicates that the two biggest IUU risks are from misreporting or non-reporting of catches (49%), followed by post harvest activities (39%), including illegal transhipment of fish at sea. Only about 3% of IUU is likely due to unauthorised or illegal fishing.

Derek Ta’uika Tagosia, e-Reporting and Monitoring Coordinator for the Solomon Islands Ministry of Fisheries & Marine Resources, reported on the success of their e-reporting, now installed and operational on over 100 locally based fishing vessels.

“Electronic reporting is entering and sending of catch and other data from the vessel to the office via satellite devices,” he said. “Before that we were using manual reporting where a log sheet is handed out to the captains and they fill it in manually using pens or pencils and we found a lot of challenges – handwriting is not clear, some missing fields, some missing pages, some using dialects.

“One of the biggest problems we had with manual logsheets was the delay in receiving those logsheets; we received them weeks late, or even months. But moving into e-reporting we managed to receive those logsheets – in just a click of a button.

“You can have the catch record for that day and the data for that catch, for that day.”

Experiences with longline fisheries in Samoa and Papua New Guinea were also presented, providing an opportunity for participants to share lessons learnt from successful initiatives and discuss strategies to overcome persisting challenges.

Fisheries Managers shared lessons learnt from successful initiatives and discussed strategies to overcome persisting challenges.
Photo: Jenni Metcalfe

The workshop group listed the most urgent actions they thought needed to be taken in the regions longline fisheries including:

  • Strengthening MCS for longline fisheries, including increased implementation of electronic reporting and electronic monitoring
  • Promoting zone-based management
  • Locking in high seas allocations
  • Tightening transhipment measures, especially in the high seas
  • Specifying sovereign fishing rights
  • Gaining agreement on target reference points
  • Working towards a harvest strategy that recognises existing zone-based management measures
  • Developing management approaches that increase economic revenue and benefits
  • Understanding the stocks and linking scientific research to Monitoring, Compliance and Surveillance (MCS) needs
  • Defining and protecting maritime boundaries and baselines
  • Getting stronger agreement about crew welfare, perhaps through a Resolution at the next Tuna Commission (WCPFC) meeting in December.

Chair of the meeting, FFA’s Deputy Director General, Matt Hooper said that resource owners, the PICTs, were currently paying for most of the costs of managing the longline fishery but were not enjoying a share of the economic returns.

“We need to look at ways to improve the economic rents from tuna fisheries, and if we are successful in that endeavour we may be in a position to recoup some of the management costs from industry.”