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Breaking news in the fishing industry.

MSC Certification PNA Skipjack Possible Threat To ISSF Members

The Parties of the Nauru Agreement (PNA) in currently under the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) full assessment to obtain certification of its FAD-free purse seiner skipjack fishery. The director of PNA, Dr. Transform Aqorau, has provided in the interview below an update on the  current stage of the assessment, in which he responds to the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation (ISSF) lack of approval towards the certification.

In a recent public statement, ISSF affirmed that it fears that the fishery cannot carry the title of sustainable just quite yet. In earlier statements, Mr. Aqorau stated: “We sincerely believe that consumers worldwide are increasingly demanding that fish products they consume do not damage the ecosystem and for this reason, we believe that going for certification would ensure that the tuna resources are managed properly and will assist us to receive the optimal long term economic benefits from those resources”, showing confidence on the sustainability of the fishery. Read article on (subscription required)

ISSF Does Not Support MSC Certification Of PNA Skipjack Fishery

ISSF stated, through its president Mrs. Susan Jackson, that it does not support the MSC certification of the PNA skipjack fishery at this moment. The International Seafood Sustainability Foundation (ISSF), which consists out of most of the major global tuna brands, has been one of the many stakeholders in the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification of the PNA Western and Central Pacific Ocean skipjack free school.

According to Mrs. Jackson, although ISSF fully supports FAO compliant ecolabels, this particular fishery is not ready for it. ISSF’s major argument is that tuna is a highly migratory species and it is likely that an individual stock which will have multiple fisheries from different countries harvesting it “and different people in charge of its management”. “To us, it’s a bit contrived since vessels will continue to fish using both certified and non-certified methods during the same fishing trip. There are aspirations for 100% validated observer coverage to make sure the proper tuna are labeled MSC, but it hasn’t happened yet. That type of monitoring for compliance is essential and also needs to be reinforced with objective electronic monitoring”, Mrs. Jackson affirmed. Finally, ISSF shares its opinion that no matter what approach to assessing sustainability one may take today, almost all tuna fisheries are not there yet, being that the very purpose for ISSF’s existence. (Atuna)

Solomon Serves Six Chinese IUU Tuna Vessels With Letters

Newly appointed Fisheries Minister Jimmy Lusibaea has sent a clear warning to all foreign fishing vessels found fishing illegally in our waters that they would be prosecuted if they are caught.

The warning came after Minister Lusibaea served letters to a number of fishing vessels which have been alleged to have fishing illegally in the country.

Last week six Chinese fishing vessels became the first victims after the Minister served their agents with letters to answer for their actions. They could face prosecution if found guilty.

The action by the newly appointed Fisheries Minister shows how serious he is on obligations entrusted to him. Reports said last week, Minister Lusibaea executed letters to Chinese agents of six fishing vessels alleged to have fished in Solomon Islands waters without prescribed licenses.

“These six vessels and the two vessels that were arrested and charged early in the year, were eight vessels covered under the letter of comfort issued by the Director of Fisheries who is currently on suspension since January 2010”, the report said.

Under the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission Convention, a state can seek listing of a fishing vessel suspected of Illegal, Unregulated and Unreported (IUU) fishing in its territorial waters including the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) on the WCPFC Blacklist of Vessels.

The report added that Solomon Islands is seriously pursuing the listing of the six Chinese vessels on the WCPFC Blacklist.

Minister Lusibaea praised the leadership shown by his Ministry staff in their commitment to see that the Chinese vessels be held responsible for any offences committed in the Solomon Islands waters.

“I am excited to see different ministries and regional institutions working together for common good of the country. Our letters to the vessels’ agents will give a strong signal to all other owners and agents of fleets fishing in our waters that they must abide by our laws and I’m expecting this from all fleets.”

“I have been briefed also that FFA member countries are working together to strengthen cooperation on Monitoring, Control and Surveillance of our regional fisheries resources against IUU under one of our regional treaties, in this case, the Niue Treaty. This initiative received my full support,” Minister Lusibaea said.

The Fisheries Permanent Secretary, Dr Christian Ramofafia has confirmed to Solomon Star that the letters will be sent to the respective agents soon.

He further said that SIG is requesting China for a bilateral discussion on the matter with the intention to settle the matter outside of the WCPFC process. (Atuna)

Study: With Better Fishing Management We Can Only Feed 20 Million More

A landmark study by scientists and economists has estimated that better management of the world’s wild fisheries could feed 20 million more people, especially in impoverished countries.

Researchers at the Fisheries Centre in Vancouver has released the first global estimate of the value of the industry, set at $240 billion but warned that government subsidies encourage over-fishing that is destroying the resource.

The work is “the first big-picture analysis of the value fisheries have for people worldwide,” said Rebecca Goldburg, a scientist with the Pew Environment Group, which funded the research. The reports were released via a telephone news conference on Tuesday from the Pew Trusts in Washington.

Key findings of the series of four reports, published in the Journal of Bioeconomics, include:

-Global wild fisheries are worth $240 billion annually when multipliers such as processing are included.
-Fisheries could feed 20 million more people if over-fishing were eliminated.
-Ocean-related sports fishing, whale watching and diving, account for 1 million jobs, a value up to $47 billion.
-Of $27 billion in annual fishery subsidies, such as for cheap fuel, $16 billion worsens over-fishing that destroys fish stocks.

“Maintaining healthy fisheries makes good economic sense,” said Rashid Sumaila, director of the Fisheries Centre at the University of British Columbia in western Canada, which led the research.

The value of fisheries was historically measured by the landed value at dockside, which in 2000 was $85 billion worldwide, Sumaila said in an interview.

The study was the first globally to put a figure on the industry taking into account the many economic spin-offs, he said.

“In terms of the global economy, this is not a big amount, you’re talking a small fraction of trillions,” Sumaila acknowledged. But he said an accurate assessment of the ocean harvest – as well as its food security worth – will give governments an incentive to better manage stocks.

Sumaila said up to half of all wild fish populations are now over-fished and in the process of “crashing” or have already crashed — as did once-bountiful northern cod in the North Atlantic nearly 20 years ago.

“If we don’t do something now, we are likely to lose most of these benefits,” said Sumaila. With better management, “we could have met the needs of 20 million people in malnourished countries.”

He recommended governments start by redirecting industry subsidies from fuel and other areas that worsen over-fishing, to research and helping fishers adopt sustainable methods.

“Large developed countries are spending twice the amount of taxpayer money on global fisheries subsidies that encourage overfishing than they are on subsidies that protect oceans,” said the report.

The researchers used data from international catches of wild fish in 2000, within the economic zones of all countries. Further research now under way using data up to 2008 will include an analysis of the corporate structure of the fishing industry, said Sumaila.

Tuna Conference: Boat Owners Say Bans Needed In All Oceans

The 2010 World Tuna Trade Conference in Bangkok conference closed Thursday in the Thai capital after three days of sessions with the participants’ concern about the overexploitation of tuna stocks worldwide.

Representatives of the Spanish tuna fleet raised the need to stop tuna fishing for at least one or two months each year, having reached the limit of exploitation.

“The most important topic, which has become very clear, is the status of the tuna resources. We have reached the limit,” said Julio Morón, Secretary General of the Organization of Tuna Purse Seiner Owners (OPAGAG), one of the two associations for the Spanish tuna fishing fleet.

Moron said that, during the conference no concrete agreements were adopted, because it was not its task to do so. However, he said that to protect and restore tuna stocks, one must begin to limit the capacity of tuna fleets in the world’s oceans. Therefore, he added that the sector must accept a total tuna fishing ban for at least one or two months each year, as already being implemented in parts of the Pacific Ocean today.

In fact, catches of tuna in the Pacific hit a new peak in 2009 reaching 2.4 million tons, according to the Secretariat of the Pacific Community.

At present, Spain has a fleet of around 60 boats that supply the canning industry and annually produces approximately 220,000 tons of canned tuna. 40 per cent of which is exported, mostly to the European market.

As for the production of tuna, Moron acknowledged that there is tremendous competition.

The Spanish canning industry complains about the inequality faced by Europeans competing with Asian nations, mainly with Thailand, China, Philippines and Papua New Guinea.

Meanwhile, at the conference Thai representation objected to the 24% duty tariff imposed on its imports into Europe.

According to Moron: “Competition is brutal there.” Moron said that “health inspections in Spain are very strict and working conditions in Europe are incomparable with those in Asia”.

The owners of the Spanish fishing fleet operating in the Indian and the Spanish Government will evaluate the results of the first year of tuna vessels fishing with private security gauards on board to repel attacks by Somali pirates. The meeting will consider the need for any change in strategy for the new season. (Atuna)

Lawsuit Launched To Save Tuna

The Center for Biological Diversity yesterday formally notified the National Marine Fisheries Service it intends to sue the agency for failing to respond to a petition to protect Atlantic bluefin tuna. The tuna, which migrates across the Atlantic to spawn in the Gulf of Mexico, faces extinction due to severe fishing pressure and habitat degradation, including effects of the BP oil spill. The Center filed its Endangered Species Act petition in May; the agency has missed the 90-day legal response deadline.

“The oil well is capped, but the effects of the spill on bluefin tuna will be seen for years to come,” said Catherine Kilduff, a Center oceans program attorney. “Tuna were already struggling in the Gulf; the spill made the problem worse. If the government doesn’t move quickly, the question won’t be when the tuna will recover, but if they’ll survive at all.”

Overfishing of Atlantic bluefin tuna has caused more than an 80 percent decline from what the population would be absent fishing pressure. The millions of gallons of oil that gushed into the Gulf of Mexico and into tuna breeding grounds during spawning season threaten to further reduce the western Atlantic population. Scientists say any eggs or larvae encountering oil will die; oil may also have harmed adult tunas’ gills, and heavy use of dispersants killed fish and other marine life.

“Endangered status for bluefin tuna could mean enhanced protections for all fish and wildlife in the Gulf,” said Kilduff. “To survive this disaster and recover, fish and wildlife need stronger oversight of the offshore oil industry and protection of essential habitat.”

There are two imperiled populations of Atlantic bluefin tuna: one that spawns in the Gulf of Mexico, another that spawns in the Mediterranean. The petition seeks endangered status for both populations, which are intensely overfished. Temptation to catch the popular sushi fish remains high — one tuna sold for $177,000 in the fish market this year. In 2007, fishermen reported catching 34,514 tons of eastern Atlantic bluefin tuna, exceeding the allowable catch by about 5,000 tons. Scientists estimated the actual catch was likely about double the reported amount.

The bluefin, a majestic fish weighing close to a ton and reaching 13 feet, is among the fastest of all species, capable of speeds over 55 miles per hour. They are threatened by overfishing, capture for tuna ranches, and changing ocean and climate conditions.

Protection under the Endangered Species Act would require federal agencies such as the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement to avoid jeopardizing the bluefin tuna in permitting offshore drilling. Additionally, protections would safeguard critical habitat and ban the importation of bluefin. (Atuna)

Competition From Asian Canneries

Spain, the leading European producer of canned fish, with 67 per cent share in the European Union (EU) – and second in the world, went to Bangkok with the intention of advancing regional agreements but also to report unfair competition from some of its competitors.

“Most of the fishing vessels in Southeast Asia do not comply with any regulations” said Juan Manuel Vieira, secretary general of the National Association of Canned Seafood (ANFACO-CECOPESCA).

Vieira said that the tuna vessels from Thailand, Philippines and Papua New Guinea do not undergo the same health, environmental and labor controls as the Spanish and European boats. “Spanish and European producers are willing to compete, however, it must be under the same conditions”, he added.

The secretary general of ANFACO also said that the biological tuna fishing bans to avoid overexploitation of the tuna resources are being respected in most of the fishing grounds in the Indian and Pacific oceans, where Spanish tuna vessels are operating.

Spain has a fleet of nearly 60 vessels supplying the canning industry and produces an annual average of 220,000 tons of canned tuna. Spain exports 40 percent of this quantity, which is mainly destined to the European market (85 percent).

The tuna canning industry in Thailand, the world’s largest producer, has a fleet of only two vessels and buys the rest of the tuna raw material from small boat fishing in the Western Pacific with little supervision, according to Vieira. Spain’s tuna canning production represents 12 percent of the global production, while Thailand produces around 23 percent, about 450,000 tons.

Asia, with Thailand in the lead, supplies more than 40 percent of the canned tuna consumed in Europe. “Imports of Asian tuna are charged with 24 percent duty, however the labor and manufacturing costs in those countries are up to 30 percent less than in Spain. This damages the Spanish tuna industry, especially in regards to own brands”, Viera said. “Asian product compete in price, however, we compete in quality, preparation and innovation”, he added. (Atuna)