South Korea’s Dongwon Industries has achieved Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) status for its tropical yellowfin and skipjack tuna fishery in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean (WCPO).
It is the first fishery owned by a South Korean company to be certified to the sustainability standard. The free-school purse-seine fishery, which produced 162,000 metric tons of tuna in 2017, was certified by assessment body Control Union.
“I would like to offer my congratulations to Dongwon for this historic certification,” said Rupert Howes, the CEO of MSC.
“We hope this achievement will lead to other South Korean fisheries entering into the MSC assessment process to demonstrate their commitment to ocean sustainability and the stewardship of our precious ocean resources.”
The certification applies to free-school yellowfin and skipjack tuna caught by 12 purse-seine freezer vessels owned by Dongwon. Control Union determined it fulfilled the 28 principles for sustainable fishing set out in the MSC fisheries standard.
This includes strong management and governance, including 100% observer coverage and real-time monitoring via a remote Fisheries Monitoring Centre in Busan, South Korea.
Impact on other species is minimal, with 99% the catch made up of skipjack and yellowfin. The fishery is also required to further demonstrate that it is not having a detrimental impact on manta and mobula rays.
“It’s a great honor to achieve the first MSC fishery certification in Korea. By achieving the most prestigious certification, we are now able to give even further confidence to our customers that our operations are duly carried out in accordance with international regulations and international best practices,” said Myoung Woo Lee, the president and CEO of Dongwon.
Before tuna from the fishery can be sold with the blue MSC label, Dongwon will need to complete a traceability assessment to earn certification to the MSC’s chain-of-custody standard.
Also, like all other tuna fisheries operating in the WCPO, in order to ensure that the fishery can respond to future changes in the health of these tuna stocks, certification is conditional on the adoption of harvest strategies ,including harvest control rules, by all member states of the Western Central Pacific Fisheries Commission by 2021.
Tuna caught by the fishery is landed in Busan, Masan, and Mokpo in South Korea, Bangkok (Thailand), General Santos City (Philippines), Ho Chi Minh City and Cam Rahn (Vietnam), Manta (Ecuador), and Mazatlan and Manzanillo (Mexico).
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.
Fishing regulators in the Pacific island nation of Kiribati have chosen the Spanish engineering company Satlink to help it modernize its fisheries management platform, the company said in a release.
Kiribati’s Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources is responsible for monitoring an exclusive economic zone with some 15% of the world’s tropical tuna. The collaboration with the Spanish firm will allow vessel monitoring and electronic reporting information to be merged into an integrated control center later this year.
“The initiative will allow the Kiribati Fisheries Administration to evolve to a system with advanced management capabilities and enable them to exploit the available information and improve the management of their fishing resources,” Satlink said in the release.
The scientific and statistical committee (SSC) for the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council (WPRFMC) has recommended that no catch limits be set for longliners pursuing bigeye tuna near the three US territories in Pacific Ocean — American Samoa, Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands — from 2020 until 2023.
The panel also recommended that each of the territories be allowed to allocate up to 2,000 metric tons to federally permitted Hawaii longline vessels.
The SSC’s recommendations came during a three-day meeting concluded in Honolulu, Hawaii, on Thursday, and preceded a meeting by the WPRFMC to be held in the same city, June 25-27, where bigeye tuna catch and allocation limits will be on the agenda.
Small, developing states in the Pacific don’t have longline-caught bigeye quotas, the council explains on its website, but under an amendment to its pelagic fishery ecosystem plan, the US’ National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) has the authority to specify annual catch and allocation limits for the three US territories. In recent years, each US territory had a 2,000t limit and authority to allocate up to 1,000t.
Prior to making its decision, the science panel reportedly reviewed stock projections through 2045, which showed that catch limit and allocation scenarios of up to 3,000t per territory were not significant enough to cause the stock to go over any limit reference points adopted by the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission, an international regional fishery management organization that develops quotas and other management measures for tuna fisheries in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean.
The SSC this week also set the acceptable biological catch for the main Hawaiian Islands Kona crab commercial fishery at 30,802 pounds for 2020 to 2023. The decision accounted for the scientific uncertainties with an estimated risk of overfishing of 38%, the press release stated.
Catch limits and options for specifying annual catch limits on Kona crab also are to be on the council’s agenda next week as well as a presentation from Global Fishing Watch, an organization that uses technology to visualize, track and share data about global fishing activity.
Papua New Guinea (PNG) has commenced the process of getting its tuna fishery Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certified, and it is already looking ahead to the benefits it hopes certification can bring.
Key among those is boosting the on-shore processing sector, which has had some difficulties in achieving its full potential in recent years. There are six plants on PNG, including Filipino firm Frabelle’s own operation and its joint venture with Thai Union Group, named Majestic Seafood.
There is also RD Processing, IFC, Nambawan Seafood, and South Seas Tuna Co.
Frabelle president Francisco Tiu Laurel has previously told Undercurrent News of the difficulties in realizing the company’s potential on the island. This time last year the two plants it is involved with had been forced to lay off employees, and were considering closing entirely, apparently because the government had ended subsidies for foreign companies.
Already, though, the situation is looking brighter, Tiu Laurel said.
“For our plants Majestic and Frabelle PNG we are again up and running at about 70% of our capacity, and we have rehired about 800 workers per plant as the government of PNG has approved to give us some refund for the fish that PNG-flagged vessels unload and process on shore-based facilities,” he said.
The government’s final decision on these regulations is yet to be determined, and once it is, Frabelle will be hoping PNG’s national fisheries authority signs it as soon as possible.
“Once we get this we will be running the factories at full capacity, and hire more workers hopefully in the near future,” said the Frabelle boss.
Presenting at the recent Seafood Expo Global in Brussels, Belgium, PNG Fishing Industry Association (FIA) chairman Sylvester Pokajam noted the island’s six plants are currently operating at around half capacity; Frabelle at 90 metric tons (of a possible 120t) per day, and Majestic at 80t of a possible 250t.
In total, the processing sector is operating at 7,125t/ day, compared to its full capacity of 15,000t. Pokajam and Tiu Laurel both told Undercurrent that gaining MSC would help bring that utilization up.
“If PNG gets its own MSC it will definitely help the plants, as demand for MSC fish is increasing in several markets around the world,” said Tiu Laurel.
How will MSC help?
PNG’s government originally set up its “domestication policy” to attract downstream investment to the island, FIA told Undercurrent.
This policy incentivized shore-based investments from fishing operators already working on PNG, like RD and Frabelle, by discounting fishing license fees to compensate for the higher production costs of processing in PNG. This meant tuna canned there could compete on the global export market (mostly Europe). “Canned products from PNG had to compete with high volume, low-cost products from South America (Ecuador) and Thailand, which were also going into the EU market, and still is.”
The policy attracted overseas investors too, leading to the construction of five of the plants now operating (IFC initially set up shop in PNG to can imported mackerel for the domestic PNG market, FIA added”.
However, before all processing plants were able to fully reach their processing capacity there was a shift in the application of the domestication policy, whereby the fishing license fees were calculated on the basis of the “vessels day scheme” (VDS) rate, on a par with a region-wide benchmark price. “This benchmark price was two-to-three times the discounted rate,” FIA noted.
“The PNG government then further changed the policy application and introduced the regional VDS rate across the board on all fishing vessels (both domestic-based and distant-water fishing nations). This again further compounded the production cost of a unit of canned tuna produced in PNG.”
So, now PNG’s domestic vessel operators feel there’s no incentive to produce a cost-competitive product in PNG if they are paying the same licensing fee rate as the distant-water fishing fleets, “who have not sacrificed and taken on risk on any shore-based investment, as PNG domestic investors have done”.
The industry lobbied, and the PNG government tried a new line; a rebate scheme on both the processing sector — calculated per metric ton of value-added — and on the fishing sector (per ton of fish landed into a PNG shore-based plant). “This rebate scheme is having its share of challenges in implementation to date, and rebates haven’t been paid as and when due,” said FIA.
Hence, FIA said, processors are not currently inclined to utilize their full capacity. But:
“With the MSC fish, it attracts a premium price compared to the current non-MSC fish products. Hence, with certification, the same volume of fish produced by PNG processors will attract the premium price, and this would enable a viable return for the processors to produce more in PNG. Eventually, the MSC value becomes the incentive to attract the volume to be landed and produced in PNG, and the plants processing volume will progressively improve towards their full capacity.”
Extra volumes too
Tiu Laurel also noted PNG’s ongoing MSC process encompasses an area of fishery not currently covered by the PNA certification.
“Plus it [would] also make catches from the archipelagic waters of PNG MSC certifiable, [volumes] which currently are not included in other MSC approved areas,” he added. At present PNG is part of the Parties to the Nauru Agreement MSC certified tuna fishery, but it is looking to break away from this organization as the sales are controlled by Dutch organization Pacifical, which parts of PNG’s sector have fallen out with.
“The archipelagic waters produce a lot of fish annually, and [are] very near the ports of Lae and Madang, where most of the factories are located, thus making it very important for the factories to get a constant supply of fish to process,” Tiu Laurel said.
Historical catch records suggest archipelagic catches would add around 90,000t more MSC certified tuna per year, the FIA told Undercurrent.
From a high of 506,413t of tuna caught in 2013 in PNG waters, volumes dived to 135,687t in 2015. That has since been on the rise again, to 316,278t in 2018, according to FIA data. Importantly, said Pokajam, this has always been made up just 1% bigeye tuna, a species there are concerns for in terms of biomass. Skipjack made up 65% of the total, and yellowfin 34%, in 2017.
“Landings in PNG are actually up, in my opinion, except for the first three months [of 2019] when catches were down, mainly due to bad weather. But from April onwards I think it will be okay,” Tiu Laurel told Undercurrent.
Based on Tiu Laurel and Pokajam’s comments, PNG’s tuna sector is now waiting on what it hopes will be a successful MSC certification and a more favorable government approach.
“We need this additional refund to make us really competitive, as we are now paying full VDS [vessel day scheme] fees — the same as other overseas fishing companies fishing in PNG, which is not fair,” said Tiu Laurel of the possible changes in regulation.
Other Pacific Island nations grant the locally-flagged fleets a 40-50% discount on VDS rates, and allow them to fish for free in the “eastern high seas”, managed under the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission, he claimed.
“This is a terrible disadvantage to the PNG-based fleet. The difference in cost of operation per vessel is about $1 million per annum versus other vessels,” said Tiu Laurel. “Due to this many have actually left the PNG registry, and if not addressed soon many more will leave.”
In 2018 there were 226 vessels licenses to fish in PNG’s exclusive economic zone — 61 reefers carriers and 165 purse seiners. In 2019 there are 61 vessels either PNG-flagged or locally-based foreign vessels licensed, affiliated to five companies; see the slide to the right.
Any new regulations for PNG will have to wait for the time being, though. As the Diplomatreports, a vote of no confidence was slated to take place on May 16 to remove prime minister Peter O’Neill from office. O’Neill had rejected calls to resign earlier in May.
O’Neill disrupted the opposition’s plans by obtaining a parliamentary adjournment on May 7. Following the adjournment, opposition members of parliament can now only table a no-confidence motion again once parliament resumes operations on May 28.
Tiu Laurel has, in the past, told Undercurrent of Frabelle’s ambitions to expand its processing to other Pacific Islands, namely Kiribati and the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM).
The latter remains on the cards, though plans have been delayed, he said.
“We intend to build one more loin and pouch plant in FSM, Pohnpei state, and we are now working on a state agreement with the fisheries department. But recently there has been a change in leadership as there is a new president, and we are waiting for the new cabinet to be chosen and continue the negotiation.”
Frabelle hopes to finalize talks this year, and to begin construction next year, he said.
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The International Seafood Sustainability Foundation (ISSF), a global coalition of scientists, the tuna industry and World Wildlife Fund (WWF), has added three new names to its 11-member board of directors.
The new additions include Rohan Currey, a scientist at the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC). Prior to working for MSC, he was a principal scientist at New Zealand’s Ministry for Primary Industries, specializing in marine mammal science and Antarctic fisheries science. He also represented New Zealand in the International Whaling Commission and the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources.
Also joining is Martin Tsamenyi, a professor of law and the former director of the Australian National Center for Ocean Resources & Security at the University of Wollongong. Tsamenyi has served as fisheries law advisor to the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency and legal counsel to the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission and was chairman of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas.
Additionally, ISSF’s board has added Giuseppe Di Carlo, director of the WWF Mediterranean Marine Initiative, where he is responsible for supporting Mediterranean countries to achieve key conservation and management targets, specifically on fisheries and marine protected areas. Since 2008, Di Carlo has been involved in developing and implementing ecosystem-based based management into conservation strategies.
Alfred Schumm, the former director of the WWF Global Fisheries Program and now director of innovation, sciences, technologies and solutions at WWF, will be stepping down from the ISSF board after serving for more than eight years, the organization reports.
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.”
The Western and Central Pacific tuna stocks are all in healthy condition, according to scientists with the Pacific Community (SPC) at the recently concluded Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) officials’ annual meeting in Palau.
“This is in part due to strong long-term management of the tuna fishery in PNA waters through the purse seine vessel day scheme (VDS),” said PNA CEO Ludwig Kumoru. He pointed to fish aggregating device (FAD) closures, limits on fishing days, and other PNA conservation measures that have contributed to the overall sustainability of the tuna fishery.
“In comparison to tuna stocks in other oceans, the Pacific tuna stocks are doing well,” he said. Bigeye, yellowfin, albacore, and skipjack are all said to be in healthy condition in this region, according to the SPC stock assessment for 2017.
Over the past several years, PNA has maintained the same level of fishing days without increase and this has shown in relatively stable catch tonnage in both the purse seine and longline industries.
In addition to a “Status of Stocks” report from SPC, the annual officials meeting in Palau dealt with numerous management issues, ranging from an economic overview of the fishery and VDS administration, to updates on harvest control rules for skipjack fisheries and the fisheries information management system.
PNA officials discussed options for increased participation in the fishery and diversifying revenue streams through various initiatives, all of which are made possible by VDS management of the fishery, it said.
The Parties continued to discuss options for increasing the value of the VDS, including options for investing revenue. A presentation was provided by an investment fund manager active in the region during the meeting, which “continued the process of exposing PNA members to options for consideration”.
Just five of the world’s 19 commercial tuna stocks have earned a passing “Principle 1” score from the Marine Stewardship Council, the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation (ISSF) notes in a report issued Friday.
Principle 1 is the standard for operating in a way that does not deplete the fishery.
Though The South Pacific albacore Principle 1 score has improved thanks to further progress by the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission on this stock’s harvest strategy work plan, two other stocks have seen their overall Principle 1 scores worsen, ISSF noted. The eastern Pacific bigeye fishery saw its score decline “due mostly to uncertainties in its latest stock assessment”, while the Atlantic yellowfin tuna dropped “due to weak tools in place to control exploitation that may be hindering its rebuilding plan”, the group said.