Bigeye, yellowfin, South Pacific albacore, and skipjack tuna are all reported to be in healthy condition, according to a 2018 stock assessment announced this week during the 16th Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) meeting in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea.
The stock-assessment report of the Pacific Community (SPC) stated that the estimate of the total tuna catch in the WCPFC Convention Area for 2018 is 2,790,859 metric tons (MT), which represents 81% of the total Pacific Ocean catch of 3,443,174 MT, and 54% of the global tuna catch, which was 5,172,543 MT.
According to SPC’s overview of the tuna fisheries paper, the total estimated value of the tuna catch in the convention area increased by 1% to US$6.01 billion (€5.47 billion) in 2018.
The value of the purse-seine catch is US$3.26 billion (€2.9 billion), accounting for 54% of the total value of the tuna catch. The value of the longline fishery increased 16% to US$1.72 billion (€1.5 billion), accounting for 29% of the total value of the tuna catch.
WCPFC Executive Director Feleti Teo said, in his opening statement at the meeting on 5 December, that the region has high levels of tuna production. He said the region’s key commercial tuna stocks of bigeye, skipjack, albacore, and yellowfin were “assessed to have been managed and maintained above agreed sustainable levels”.
Teo added that, compared to other ocean regions, the tuna stocks in the region are not overfished.
Graham Pilling, director of the Oceanic Fisheries Program at the Pacific Community, added in a media release that conservation measures have contributed to the sustainability of the Pacific tuna stock.
“The healthy status of WCPO tuna stocks is attributed to the management of the fishery through the WCPFC process and its members, including the key roles played by the Pacific island member-countries and subregional fisheries agencies including the Fisheries Forum Agency [FFA] and the Parties to the Nauru Agreement [PNA],” Pilling said.
Despite the positive assessment, Teo said that the tuna commission should continue with its collective conservation efforts and not “to be complacent and to be less vigilant”.
But the Pacific Community also pointed out that there are still challenges such as the state of certain Western Central Pacific Ocean billfish and shark stocks that need to be addressed by the Commission. It said they are in need of urgent attention.
Economic impacts resulting from the recent decline in the price of skipjack tuna also poses a challenge in the region. Skipjack prices have fallen below US$1,000 (€900) per MT for the first time in a number of years.
But the WCPFC is developing and implementing harvest strategies for key tuna stocks to address the challenges, WCPFC Chair Jung-re Riley Kim said.
“I am very grateful to SPC for their significant contribution to providing science and data inputs into the important harvest strategy work of the commission, and their innovative efforts and initiatives to engage with cooperating members, cooperating non-members and participating territories, and contribute to building their capacity in terms of harvest strategy,” Kim said in a release.
Yellowfin tuna … stocks of this and other species are a focus of FFA’s platform at WCPFC16. Photo: WWF
PORT MORESBY, 4 December 2019 – Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) members have developed a comprehensive list of priorities for the 16th meeting of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC16), including climate change as a central plank.
The meeting opens in Port Moresby tomorrow, 5 December.
Forum Fisheries Committee Chair Eugene Pangelinan, of the Federated States of Micronesia, commended FFA members for their strong commitment and solidarity in preparing for WCPFC16, before listing the priorities for FFA Members which include progress on target reference points for key tuna stocks, tightening up monitoring of transshipment on the high seas, improving the process for reviewing compliance with measures, and making progress on high seas limits and management of longline fisheries.
FFA Director-General Dr Manu Tupou-Roosen said FFA members are calling on the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission to take stronger action on climate change.
“Climate change is the defining challenge of our generation and the impact on Pacific Island countries is particularly threatening, given that tuna fisheries provide significant economic, social and cultural benefits,” Dr Tupou-Roosen said.
“FFA is asking for increased attention by Commission scientists on the implications of climate change for the region’s tuna stocks, and consideration of what conservation and management measures (CMMs) can be put in place to reduce the carbon footprint of both Commission activities and fishing in Pacific waters managed by the Commission.
“Our members are proposing a resolution on Climate Change.”
Enhanced consultation between the WCPFC and small island developing states (SIDS) is also a key agenda item for FFA this year.
Mr Pangelinan said that FFA would be pushing in Port Moresby for Commission members to consult more comprehensively with SIDS when proposing new measures.
“Unfortunately, some measures have been presented to the Commission with inadequate assessments of the potential impacts on SIDS. For example, any measure that has significant implementation requirements should be informed by direct consultation with small island developing states,” he said
Mr Pangelinan and Dr Tupou-Roosen concluded by expressing thanks on behalf of FFA to Papua New Guinea for hosting this year’s Commission meeting.
Further details about key issues for FFA Members at WCPFC16 are in the attached below in the media backgrounder.
Media enquiries: Mr Tevita Tupou, +675 7333 9945
About Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA)
FFA assists its 17 member countries to sustainably manage fishery resources that fall within their 200-mile exclusive economic zones (EEZs). FFA provides expertise, technical assistance and other support to its members who make decisions about their tuna resources and participate in regional decision making on tuna management. www.ffa.int
Media backgrounder: Summary of key FFA agenda items for WCPFC16
Following are details of FFA’s key priorities at WCPFC16.
The FFC Chair and the FFA Director-General will be available for brief media conferences or interviews during the Commission meeting, as time permits. Please direct requests to Mr Tevita Tupou on +675 7333 9945 or by email to email@example.com.
1. Climate change
Tuna fisheries are a critical resource for many Pacific Island countries, providing essential social and economic benefits. The impacts of climate change are particularly severe in the Pacific and place at great risk the benefits of the region’s tuna fisheries for small island developing states (SIDS).
FFA members are therefore calling on the WCPFC to collectively take stronger action on climate change, and will introduce resolution DP04 seeking that the Commission:
Fully recognise the impacts of climate change, in particular on the fisheries, food security and livelihoods of small island developing states and territories.
Take into account in its deliberations, including in the development of conservation and management measures, the impacts of climate change on target stocks, non-target species, and species belonging to the same ecosystem or dependent or associated with the target stocks.
Estimate the carbon footprint of fishing and related activities in the Convention Area for fish stocks managed by the Commission and develop appropriate measures to reduce such footprint.
Develop options such as carbon offsets to decrease the collective carbon footprint of CCMs and the WCPFC Secretariat associated with meetings of the Commission and its subsidiary bodies.
2. Tuna measures
The skipjack target reference point (TRP) is due for review at WCPFC16. FFA members support the Scientific Committee recommendation that the review be informed by the latest stock assessment. This indicates that a spawning biomass depletion ratio of 42% will achieve roughly the same fishery outcomes as the 50% TRP was projected to achieve when it was adopted in 2015.
Therefore, our recommendation is that the Commission adopt a 42% TRP, which is consistent with the level of fishing and the status of the skipjack stock in 2012.
Bigeye and yellowfin tuna
WCPFC16 is due to agree TRPs for yellowfin and bigeye tuna, which will be important in terms of implementing harvest strategies.
FFA members want to maintain bigeye and yellowfin stocks at levels that will create a very low risk of breaching the limit reference points (LRPs), consistent with the UN Fish Stocks Agreement guidelines. They also want modest increases in stock levels, to support ongoing economic management of the purse-seine fishery and to facilitate development opportunities for the SIDS’ longline fisheries.
In the absence of agreement on new TRPs, FFA feels strongly that the current objectives in the Tropical Tuna Measure for Yellowfin and Bigeye must be maintained. We also believe the economic, social and biological implications of the TRPs must be carefully considered, including their interaction with the TRP for skipjack tuna.
Reaching agreement on these TRPs at WCPFC16 is a challenging task, given the diverse objectives of Commission members. If consensus isn’t possible, WCPFC16 needs to clearly identify any further technical work required to support a decision in 2020, and capacity building to ensure all Commission members understand the implications of harvest strategy elements.
South West Pacific swordfish
FFA will encourage WCPFC16 to support advice from the Scientific Committee that current conservation and management measures for Swordfish (CMM 2009-03) need to be strengthened.
North Pacific swordfish and North Pacific albacore tuna appear to be in relatively good shape, but the Pacific bluefin stock level remains a problem, and this risks the reputation of the WCPFC when the health of other stocks demonstrates good management.
South Pacific Albacore work plan
FFA is seeking renewed focus on the work to build the South Pacific albacore fishery to the TRP agreed in 2018.
FFA has taken the lead in revising the South Pacific Albacore Roadmap work plan, to focus on setting an overall hard limit and on the split of the overall hard limit between the high seas and the exclusive economic zones (EEZs).
The other priority is to ensure that the new measure for South Pacific albacore recognise zone-based management (ZBM), EEZ limits, data collection, and reporting requirements.
3. High seas limits
High seas limits and allocation are also a focus for FFA this year. FFA is providing perspectives to the Commission on the provisions of CMM 2018-01 that commit to limits and an allocation framework for the purse seine and longline fisheries in the high seas. FFA members will promote agreement on a process for 2020 for advancing negotiations on high seas limits, with a view to reaching an agreement at WCPFC17.
FFA members will promote agreement on a process for 2020 for advancing negotiations on high seas limits, with a view to reaching an agreement at WCPFC17.
4. Compliance monitoring scheme
FFA members have worked hard with other Commission members over the last several years in the review of the Compliance Monitoring Scheme. Of high priority in the reform of the scheme is the way in which the Commission reviews the performance of members in implementing their monitoring and enforcement obligations at the national level. FFA members support the Commission’s role in identifying and targeting systemic issues with the implementation of obligations by Commission members and moving away from reviewing and assessing the actions of individual vessels. The core purpose of the Compliance Monitoring Scheme is to review the actions of flag states in respect of their vessel activities, and not of the individual vessels themselves. This approach is taken with a view to promoting and supporting compliance by all members as the foundation for achieving Commission management objectives.
FFA members remain concerned about the lack of effective monitoring of transhipment on the high seas, particularly by large-scale freezer longline vessels. This constitutes a significant gap in our ability to monitor and verify longline catches on the high seas, and we consider it to be a high priority issue for the Commission’s work to stamp out illegal fishing.
The FFA is seeking finalisation of the Transhipment Intersessional Working Group’s 2020 work plan, with a focus on identifying gaps in the current measure and defining measures to close those gaps.
Our members will advocate at WCPFC16 for adequate resources for this important work.
6. Harvest strategy
FFA is seeking more detailed economic analyses to support the harvest strategy work plan as it enters a complex stage at WCPFC16. FFA’s position is what while the work plan should be ambitious, it must also be realistic and there is a need for capacity building for SIDS and other Commission members to ensure they fully understand the harvest strategy work and its implications.
One of the key issues before the Commission will be targets for multiple species and how these might be achieved (e.g. harvest-control rules). FFA notes that SC15 endorsed a hierarchical approach for multi-species considerations. Members want further time to consider the implications of this, noting that it is likely to involve changes to the structure of the work plan.
7. Consultation with SIDS
FFA members are concerned about the lack of consultation with SIDS by some WCPFC member nations when proposing new measures to the Commission.
Some measures have been presented to the Commission with inadequate assessments of the potential impacts on SIDS, including implementation costs where additional investment will be required. Impact assessments require consultation and this must take place well in advance of Commission meetings when new proposals are being considered
On another issue, FFA members look forward to receiving the WCPFC Secretariat’s report on the first year of the Strategic Investment Plan.FFA members express appreciation for the voluntary contributions from Australia, Canada, Korea and the United States to the Special Requirements Fund.
8. Electronic reporting and monitoring
FFA views the Electronic Reporting (ER) and Electronic Monitoring (EM) Working Group as extremely important, particularly for the longline fishery where the reporting record of many vessels is poor and independent verification of vessel reporting through observer courage is struggling to reach 5%.
As standards and procedures for ER for both operational catch and observers have now been agreed for two years, FFA believes a date should be set for 100% electronic reporting by all active vessels on the Record of Fishing Vessels (RFV), and by all observers.
We note that many FFA members are implementing ER for fishing within their EEZs, and propose that ER be implemented for all fishing on the high seas by the start of the 2022 fishing year.
The next step is to recommend Commission-wide minimum standards for electronic monitoring (EM). The work that done this year on reviewing data requirements and sources and determining priority gaps, should enable the Working Group to progress this task in 2020.
Mobulid ray measure
FFA members are putting forward a proposal for a new measure to prevent targeted fishing and retention, and promote the safe release, of mobulid rays such as manta rays when they are caught by WCPFC fisheries.
10. Charter Notification Scheme
As CMM 2016-05 expires this year, FFA members propose a roll-over of the measure for a further two years. The Charter Notification Scheme is an essential component of WCPFC’s fisheries management framework and facilitates SIDS’ participation in fisheries. For example, chartering provides a mechanism for SIDS to develop their own commercial tuna fisheries in an incremental manner without requiring an unaffordable initial capital investment.
11. Harmful fisheries subsidies
FFA members reiterate the call by Pacific fisheries ministers at the 16th FFC Ministerial Meeting in June 2019 for negotiations to be completed on a new WTO agreement to prohibit harmful fisheries subsidies.
These subsidies can contribute to economic losses in the fisheries sector and distort global fish markets, with serious impacts on food security and livelihoods, particularly in SIDS.
We support the ministers’ view that any outcome should not unnecessarily constrain the ability of SIDS to develop their tuna fisheries and that appropriate differential treatment for SIDS should be an integral part of these negotiations.
The following acronyms will be in common use during WCPFC16.
It said all four species that are economically important in the region – skipjack, South Pacific albacore, yellowfin and bigeye – are being fished sustainably.
In the parlance of the report, “none is being overfished, and overfishing is not occurring”, although there was “no room for complacency” in how fish stocks are managed because all four species continue to decline overall.
The abundance of a species is estimated against a benchmark, called a target reference point (TRP), which is a desirable level of stock needed to maintain the healthy functioning of the species, the environment it lives in, and the sustainability of fishing.
The report card said that numbers of skipjack tuna are above the target reference point (TRP) for that species. TRPs are being developed for the other three species.
The report noted that the value of tuna fishing to the region is increasing, and had passed the target for 2020.
Local employment in the tuna industry was also increasing, and was on target to meet the 2023 target.
HONIARA, 24 October 2019 – Pacific Community (SPC) fisheries scientist Sam McKechnie says SPC’s research shows an easterly move for skipjack and yellowfin tuna species in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean that will be clear by 2050 and pronounced by 2100.
According to a September 2018 SPC report, the prediction is driven by the degradation of fish spawning habitats due to higher ocean temperatures.
McKechnie presented current projections of the impacts of climate change on tuna movement during the 7th Global Environment Facility Steering Committee last month.
Part of SPC’s climate modelling focuses on the effects of climate change on bycatch species such as sharks, seabirds and turtles. While not of commercial interest, these animals are immensely important for ecological diversity and food security.
McKechnie said that the SPC research optimistically shows that some species, like the yellowtail kingfish, may be able to adapt to predicted changes. This capacity occurs when there is higher genetic diversity in a species and it is able to thrive in warming waters. Yellowtail kingfish can be bred easily in captivity, making it an excellent test subject for studying the impacts of climate change on large species that live in the open ocean.
Management of fish stocks in the exclusive economic zones (EEZs) of Pacific countries and on the high seas depends on understanding current stock levels. It also depends on estimating catch levels so that Pacific countries can capitalise on the fisheries economically and socially, while maintaining sustainable limits. Programs developed by SPC, for example TUFMAN 2, support rigorous documenting on vessels to ensure accurate catch reporting.
“There’s a big update coming in the next couple months that will be rolled out,” McKechnie said.
“TUFMAN has been extremely valuable for us and there’s more components that have been added recently […] that will hopefully increase the value of the data and that there will be less mistakes.
“The better this interface gets, the easier it is to validate.”
Eugene Pangelinan, the Executive Director of the National Oceanic Resource Management Authority (NORMA), thanked SPC for support in this area, as electronic reporting is a priority for the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM).
“We have been pushing forward on implementing the electronic monitoring on all our commercial fisheries, foreign and domestic, by 2023,” he said.
Fisheries representatives from Tonga, Cook Islands, Fiji and FSM expressed appreciation for the SPC’s work in data collection and regional training workshops during Tuesday’s meeting.
Members said these activities, supported through the Oceanic Fisheries Management Project (OFMP2), have informed decision-making and improved electronic monitoring.
More skipjack and yellowfin tuna will move to the tropical waters, while albacore, Atlantic bluefin, bigeye and southern bluefin will shift into colder seas in the future, according to research led by AZTI, a Spanish research body.
If a coastal country’s local fleet anticipates the changes in abundance and distribution of the target species, it may adapt its fishing gear or change its target species, said Haritz Arrizabalaga, who carried out the study with Maite Erauskin-Extramiana.
“Knowing in advance what will happen in the future enables adaptation strategies to the transformations to be drawn up. [A coastal country’s local fleet] may be able to continue fishing the same species, but investing in larger vessels, capable of going out further in search of these species,” said Arrizabalaga.
The researchers took into account the effect of the environmental conditions on the worldwide distribution of tuna species, such as albacore, Atlantic bluefin, southern bluefin, tropical bigeye, skipjack and yellowfin between 1958 and 2004. This enables the influence of climate change in the future to be assessed and specific predictions to be made, they claim. The study has been published Global Change Biology.
“During the historical period analyzed, the habitat distribution limits of the tuna have moved towards the poles at a rate of 6.5 kilometers per decade in the northern hemisphere and 5.5km per decade in the southern one. Based on the influence of climate change, even strong changes in tuna distribution and abundance are expected in the future, particularly at the end of the century (2088 – 2099),” said Arrizabalaga.
More specifically, the study forecasts that temperate tuna species, such as albacore, Atlantic bluefin and southern bluefin, will move towards the poles. Bigeye tuna will reduce its presence in the tropics and will move to warmer areas. On the other hand, the analysis predicts that the main two canned tuna species — skipjack and yellowfin — will become more abundant in the tropical areas, as well as in most of the fishing areas of coastal countries, or in other words, in the maritime economic exclusive zones which stretches from their coastline to a distance of 200 nautical miles.
“Tuna predictions offers relatively good news for tuna fishing to continue as an important food source, due to the origin of the main tuna protein consumption in humans comes from skipjack and yellowfin tuna from the tropical area,” said Arrizabalaga.
The study has enabled analysis on how the worldwide distribution and abundance of the main tuna species will vary due to climate change and, in this way, quantify the future trends of the tuna populations.
“Tuna species are resources of enormous economic importance and a key source of protein for much of the population. As a result of climate change, their habitat distribution is changing and, related to this, the opportunities of different countries to access this source of wealth. This study aims to explain what has happened in the past and predict what will happen in the future so that countries and fishing fleets can come up with adaptation strategies to the new circumstances,” said Erauskin-Extramiana.
Climate change will cost Pacific island countries and territories about $60 million in lost tuna-related revenue by 2050, Johann Bell, senior director of Pacific tuna fisheries at Conservation International, reportedly told the Pacific Islands News Association.
The estimate is based on recent modeling done with tuna biomass within the exclusive economic zones of the Pacific island countries and territories, assuming a 15% movement of skipjack and yellowfin to the east, he said. As a result, he explained, regional governments will receive less revenue because foreign fishing fleets will take more of their tuna catch from the high seas where they do not have to pay licensing fees.
Bell was reportedly speaking at the conclusion of the Pacific Community workshop for the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development 2021-2030, an event held in Noumea, in the French territory New Caledonia.
In 2016, license fees revenue for all the Pacific island countries and territories was about $465m, he said.
Global fish stocks are in decline, but a new tuna management scheme by the Federated States of Micronesia offers a blueprint for recovery. By working to manage half of the world’s skipjack tuna stocks sustainably, Pacific Islanders are leading the way in ensuring that fish, and people, are protected for generations to come.
A cluster of small Pacific islands is poised to make history in the management of global fish stocks. This week, when conservationists from around the world gathered at the fifth annual Our Ocean Conference in Bali, the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) unveiled a bold promise and issued an even bolder challenge: full transparency in tuna fishing by 2023.
If FSM’s commitment is replicated, citizens of the Pacific could reclaim control over a natural resource that forms the backbone of the region’s economies. And it would promote future prosperity by helping to ensure that tuna stocks are fished sustainably, and that foreign vessels fishing in these waters do not take more than is permitted by law.
The mechanism that FSM and The Nature Conservancy will present this week is called the Technology for Tuna Transparency Challenge, a combination of monitoring and regional pacts aimed at improving fishing oversight. The initiative represents the first time a developing country has committed to 100% transparency in its fishery operations; if it succeeds, it could trigger a transformation of how seafood is managed worldwide.
FSM and the seven other island states that make up the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) may look like dots on the map, but they command an expanse of ocean greater than the size of Europe and are global powerhouses when it comes to fish. With control over half of the world’s supply of skipjack tuna and about a third of tuna stocks globally, the PNA is a veritable OPEC of the sea.
In FSM, efforts are already underway to use this market position as a force for good. Fish like tuna are important global commodities, but the industry is in steep decline worldwide. By committing to full transparency and pushing private partners to do the same, FSM will send a powerful signal that sustainable fishing practices are urgently needed to protect these crucial species.
But the real motivation behind FSM’s pledge lies closer to home. Tuna is more than a commodity here; it is what builds schools, pays teachers’ salaries, paves roads, and keeps hospitals open. It is the socioeconomic foundation of communities on the frontlines of climate change and rising sea levels. In other words, this is an existential fight – for the wellbeing of people today and the survival of island societies in the future.
FSM’s rich tuna fishery already provides half of the country’s income, but it could deliver even more. That is because too much of the value of tuna caught in local waters is being captured by foreign fishing fleets. Transparency is the key to bringing more of this wealth home. With electronic and human monitoring, we can stop illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing, which robs the region of more than $600 million a year. Contrary to popular belief, most poaching is not the work of pirate operators; the major culprits are licensed foreign vessels that underreport or deliberately misreport their catch.
State-of-the-art electronic monitoring will also help ensure the sustainability of fish stocks and the communities they support. Currently, a lack of reliable monitoring data makes it difficult to establish protective fishing limits, and even harder to enforce them.
To remedy this, FSM plans to deploy remote sensors, GPS systems, cameras, and tracking devices on every longline vessel in its waters within five years. This will enable the collection of information such as catch composition, discards, and bycatch, which in turn will help minimize the accidental capture of sharks, turtles, and marine mammals. Crucially, these tools will also give authorities the data to manage ocean resources in real time. By joining FSM in these efforts, the PNA could raise the bar for transparency and set a new standard for fisheries management.
We already know that cooperation and conservation can reap big rewards. For example, since PNA-member states launched the Vessel Day Scheme in 2007 – which sets limits on fishing by foreign fleets – their annual tuna earnings have increased from about $60 million to more than $500 million. Pacific fisheries ministers are hoping to raise revenue even more by working with The Nature Conservancy to co-implement a system similar to one used in western Alaska, where the Community Development Quota Program (CDQ) has helped poor communities generate income by investing in fisheries-related businesses.
The commitment to full transparency and the launch of a CDQ-type initiative for PNA states are intended to keep more tuna wealth in the Pacific. By promoting better fishing practices, we can increase regional revenue flows to rebuild and restore fisheries, boost food and job security, and strengthen resilience to climate change.
We believe that fish, marine ecosystems, and people can coexist and thrive, and that the road to sustainability runs through community empowerment. We hope this vision will be shared by FSM’s Pacific neighbors, consumer advocates, and fishing partners gathered in Bali this week. Protecting a third of the world’s tuna stocks could be just the start of the global transparency revolution needed to protect our oceans – and our future.
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.
Skipjack tuna prices for delivery to Bangkok, Thailand during August are increasing again, after hitting a two year-record low last month, industry sources told Undercurrent News.
“The lowest price recorded was around $1,210 per-metric-ton,” one US-based source told Undercurrent, pointing out that western Pacific Ocean boat owners have “reacted to even lower FOB price demands from traders”.
As a result, “the traders started shorting canneries and talked of a fish shortage, the [price] tendency reversed, and now it’s possible the price may well sail through $1,300/t on its way towards $1,350/t or $1,400/t in the near term”, the US source said.
The skipjack raw material price closed at $1,300/t in July 2018, Thai Union Group pointed out in its quarterly results published on Aug. 6. During the second quarter, the average price was $1,667/t, down 5.4% year but 5.7% up quarter on quarter, the Thai group also said.
Commenting on the price rebound, some sources questioned why “did prices ever get up as high as $1,800/t in April”.
“There is no sense to what the way the market has been moving,” one said. But other sources stressed that the rebound was expected, as prices tend to increase in correspondence of the “veda” closures in the western and central Pacific in July and in the eastern Pacific at the end of July.