'One-by-one' fisheries gaining importance in USD 40 billion global tuna industry

Published on
June 28, 2016

The global tuna industry is worth more than USD 40 billion (EUR 35.1 billion), of which pole-and-line and hand-line fishing are playing an increasingly important part. Emily Howgate, International Coordinating Director with the International Pole and Line Foundation (IPNLF) explained its significance in an interview with SeafoodSource.

SeafoodSource: How important are pole-and-line fisheries for global tuna trade?

Howgate: Pole-and-line and handline tuna fisheries are estimated to contribute more than USD 5.5 billion (EUR 4.8 billion) to the global economy. With total tuna fisheries valued at over USD 40 billion (EUR 35.1 billion), according to Pew’s Netting Billions report, this is a significant proportion.

One-by-one tuna fisheries are vital to provide local jobs for local people. Such centuries-old fishing practices are firmly rooted in local communities, traditions and values, reflecting often-historic links to fishery resources and community identity.

We recognize that pole-and-line can’t meet the entirety of global tuna demand, but given the associated benefits, pole-and-line can – and should – make up a greater proportion of the tuna market.

SeafoodSource: Where does the IPNLF operate?

Howgate: IPNLF is a registered charity in the United kingdom, but operates internationally. Our small team includes staff and special advisors, with representatives in Europe, North America, Asia and Africa. Our projects to develop fisheries are run collaboratively with local and supply-chain partners, and are currently focused in the notable pole-and-line geographies of Indonesia and the Maldives, with some initial engagement also in Central America and East Africa.

SeafoodSource: You only recently started using the term ‘one by one’ tuna fishing. Does this resonate better with consumers?

Howgate: The term one-by-one, referring to one at a time, collectively covers the coastal tuna gears of pole-and-line, hand-line and troll. IPNLF support such fisheries because of the benefits they provide, which are low environmental impact and high social gains.

Using the term one-by-one is a little broader than saying pole-and-line and speaks to the diversity of the species and countries that IPNLF members are involved in. We have members who are engaged with the fresh-frozen as well as the canned tuna market. The choice of whether to use the term pole-and-line or one-by-one in any consumer-facing packaging or promotion is an individual decision for public-facing tuna brands and retailers.

SeafoodSource: Are you confident that recent decisions by the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) to implement management measures for yellowfin tuna stocks are robust?

Howgate: We were hoping that stronger measures would be adopted for the rebuilding of these stocks, but it should also be recognized that tough negotiations preceded the adoption shortly before the meeting was concluded. This is definitely a big step in the right direction. The combination of fishing cuts across major fishing gears, as well as measures to reduce catches of juvenile yellowfin by limiting drifting fish aggregating devices (dFADs), placing restrictions on the use of supply vessels that assist purse seiners during fishing operations, and the banning of lights to attract tuna, are all very positive developments. IOTC will now have to ensure that they deliver and successfully implement.

SeafoodSource: The decision to suspend MSC certification for the yellowfin component of the Maldives pole-and-line skipjack and yellowfin tuna fishery was described as schizophrenic by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF). What is the next step for this fishery?

Howgate: We do not agree with this type of terminology being used in terms of decisions around fisheries certification. The conformity assessment body’s findings during the recent surveillance audit reflected the IOTC Scientific Committee’s latest assessment for skipjack tuna, which determined the stock to be neither overfished, nor subject to overfishing. Since being certified, the Maldives has worked very hard to promote sustainable management of tuna fisheries in the Indian Ocean and they have submitted a proposal on harvest control rules and reference points at every commission meeting since meeting the MSC standard. The adoption of the skipjack harvest control rule at the recent IOTC meeting in La Reunion is testament to their efforts to build partnerships with member states, supply chain partners, NGOs and others, and reaffirms the sustainability credentials of this fishery.

SeafoodSource: What has been your greatest achievement since becoming international coordinating director with IPNLF?

Howgate: The most exciting thing for me has been the growth of our team, our collaborative partnerships and our network membership. Such strength in collective expertise has given greater impact and recognition of our fisheries, policy and social sustainability work. This can be seen for example in the progress gained for both skipjack and yellowfin management at IOTC, in the exceptional progress rating of the Indonesia pole-and-line/handline tuna fisheries improvement project (FIP), and the instigation of a Responsible Fishing Scheme pilot in the Maldives.

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