Tuna sector meets with Europêche, NGOs to talk FAD management

Discussions surrounding the use of fish aggregating devices (FADs) and how to enhance the management of tuna fisheries were top of bill at a meeting between Europêche and a host of NGOs on 26 January in European Parliament.

Hosted by Ulrike Rodust MEP and attended by Socialist and Democrat MEPs, the meeting provided a forum for the tuna sector to relay strategies for better FAD management and employment, as well as explore the sector’s commitment to sustainable exploitation of the species in question.

With more than 20 years of extensive FAD use under its belt, the sector has observed tropical tuna stocks to be in good shape in much of the world’s oceans. As such, removing FADs – as has been suggested by some NGOs – could potentially shift the existing effort from skipjack tuna to yellow fin tuna, leading to the latter's certain overexploitation, recounted Europêche.

Over the course of the meeting, participants focused on two main points of contention surrounding the use of FADs: the catching of juveniles and the catching turtles or sharks as by catch. Normally, natural juvenile tuna mortality exceeds its fishing mortality, which serves to explain why tuna is so resilient to fishing pressure, according to the sector. Moroever, the EU purse seine fleet produce very little by-catch, with all fishermen trained to safely release sharks, rays and turtles alive. As an example of this, the sector referred to 2013, when only 12 turtles in the Eastern Pacific were inadvertently caught out of a total of 280 purse seine vessels.

Most industry representatives expounded on their decisions to adopt “a series of their own management measures, at their own expense, to ensure the best standards for sustainable tuna exploitation,” noted Europêche.

“They have 100 percent observer coverage onboard, fully documented catches, a total replacement of FADs by non-entangling ones and they have adopted a code of best practice. The EU fleet were also the first to introduce FAD management plans at national and RFMO level and have a self-imposed limitation on their use; 500 FADs per vessel per year in the Atlantic ocean and 550 per vessel per year in the Indian ocean,” the organization summed.

These measures have been compounded by another proposal put forth by the sector regarding a fishing effort cap and seasonal closures for the use of FADs in different RFMOs. The sector and the NGOs agreed that condensing the number of FADs allowed on board vessels exists as just another component of fishing mortality since the real issue is fishing capacity. If the system allows for the unregulated increase of vessels, a FAD limitation will have no effect, posed Europêche; in only five years, there has been an increase in the number of purse seine vessels by 22 percent.

"NGOs such as Greenpeace has for some time been campaigning against FAD use without any scientific evidence that FAD use could lead to tuna overexploitation. What is not usually mentioned is that the actual threat for tuna stocks around the world is over capacity. I am pleased that the NGOs have today recognised this fact and the impressive work and effort that the sector has gone to in order to make this fishing practice sustainable. FADs are used for the vast majority of the tuna purse seine fleet and support thousands of livelihoods of coastal communities all over the world. In fact, the majority of the recent tropical tuna catch came from healthy stocks and a high proportion of that came from fisheries using FADs," said Javier Garat, President of Europêche.

Overall, there is still a need for more scientific data, the NGOs and the sector surmised. Data submitted by the sector to the European Commission project, CECOFAD, still needs to be analyzed.


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