Tuna measure ‘highly unlikely’ to meet goals

A new conservation and management measure in the western and central Pacific are “highly unlikely” to restore bigeye and yellowfin tuna to sustainable levels.

The measure, adopted by the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) in December, was designed to ensure that bigeye and yellowfin tuna stocks are maintained at levels capable of producing their maximum sustainable yield.

But according to a technical evaluation released this week by Pacific Commission scientists charged with providing advice to the WCPFC, the measure won’t meet its objectives of maintaining bigeye tuna stocks and spawning biomass at sustainable levels by simply reducing the fishing mortality of the species by 30 percent over three years.

The measure — which includes setting effort and catch limits in longline and purse seine fishing, closing fishing of high-seas pockets, and implementing a seasonal ban on Fish Aggregating Devices (FAD) — are not enough to maintain bigeye tuna stocks at sustainable fishing levels over the next 10 years. It is also unlikely to meet the target of holding yellowfin tuna fishing mortality to 2001-04 average values.

According to the assessment, the effect will be little, if any, reduction of bigeye overfishing from current high levels of 50 to 100 percent above sustainable yield levels. The bigeye spawning biomass ois also predicted to worsen to between 40 and 60 percent by 2018.

“The Scientific Committee of the WCPFC should immediately address the shortcomings of the measure and recommend appropriate steps to meet the objectives it set forth,” said Jose Ingles, World Wildlife Fund fisheries expert. “The exemptions outlined in the [measure] have watered down its effectiveness. Closing or banning fishing in high seas for example will simply shift fishing effort to the central Pacific, which scientists believe are more vulnerable areas for bigeye tuna.”

“If we are to see an effective reduction in the overfishing of tuna in the Coral Triangle, we need to make sure that the measures put in place are sufficient and strong enough to create drastic results,” added Ingles.

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