OPAGAC urges comprehensive approach to tuna fishing rules

Published on
March 30, 2017

A group representing the Spanish tuna fishing fleet is advocating for a more comprehensive approach to the adoption of rules governing tropical tuna fishing, including the use of fish-aggregating devices (FADs). 

At the Global FAD Science Symposium, hosted in Santa Monica, California in March by The Pew Charitable Trusts, the Organisation of Associated Producers of Large Tuna Freezers (OPAGAC) called for a closer look at how various NGOs define FADs and the impact that such varying definitions have on the tuna fishing industry. 

The symposium investigated the various management measures established by regional fishery management organisations (RFMOs) for fishing with FADs, evaluated FAD research and issued recommendations for the responsible management of fishing with FADs. 

During the meeting, OPAGAC outlined its Good Practice Code, which it says goes above and beyond rules set by RFMOs for tuna fishing by implementing non-entangling FAD designs and bycatch release protocols. OPAGAC has also initiated observer training for representatives of coastal countries, including the Seychelles and the Cook Islands, to guarantee and verify compliance with its code.

NGOs with a stake in how the world’s tropical tuna fisheries are managed should work harder to achieve unanimous conformity in their approach to FADs, OPAGAC said in a statement. Various RFMOs use different definitions of “associated schools” and “free schools” of tuna, creating controversy in the evaluation of purse-seine fisheries for MSC certification, it said. In addition, the call for the elimination of the use of all fish-aggregating devices may result in the use of more damaging fishing methods,  OPAGAC Managing Director Miguel Herrera said.

“Most fishing methods can be appropriately managed, and fishing with FADs shouldn’t be an exception, but the potential consequences have to be evaluated before measures are applied,” Herrera said.

OPAGAC said it supports comprehensive certification for purse-seine fisheries to include FAD operations as well as all the other fishing methods the fleet employs. Its own Good Practice Code provides a good starting point for the development of best practices for more sustainable tuna fishing, it said, while adding that more research is necessary to understand the full impact tuna fishing is having on the population. As a result, OPAGAC is also funding and participating in programs to estimate mortality rates after the release of sensitive species that the purse-seine fleet takes as bycatch, and the organization is also working on the development of biodegradable FADs and the evaluation of the impact of FAD fishing on the marine ecosystem, it said.

OPAGAC said these issues should be discussed at the FAD Working Group meeting organized by the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) for 19 to 21 April in Madrid, Spain. The Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) and the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC-CIAT) will be in attendance at the meeting, as will NGO stakeholders. However, the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) has declined an invitation to participate, OPAGAC said.

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