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Tender Vessels Putting Eastern Nations Ahead

Tuna fishermen in the EPO are calling attention to the prohibition of the use of tender vessels that puts them – along with many other reduction measures- in the disadvantage over their colleagues fishing in other oceans. Some feel that equal measures should be taken in other oceans.

Currently the only tuna fishing area of the world where the use of tender vessels in association with Fishing Aggregating Devices (FADs) is forbidden is the Eastern Pacific Ocean (EPO).  The Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC), which manages the area - mostly exploited by nations on the west coast of the Americas - issued a resolution in 1999 on the ban of tender vessels.

Tender vessels are smaller and faster boats used to patrol FADs released in the ocean and inform purse-seiners of the abundance of tuna in those certain areas, directing the fishing activity to where the schools of tuna are. It saves the large mother vessels a lot of sailing time and ineffective burning of diesel - while searching for tuna.

EPO fishermen say this practice increases exponentially the cost and catch efficiency of purse-seiners and, along with the soon-to-be-taken-into-effect tuna ban in the EPO, will give tuna fleets fishing in the Pacific Ocean, Indian Ocean, and Atlantic Ocean a definite advantage over the vessels in the EPO.

A lot has been said about over-capacity and retiring tuna boat programs, but withdrawing tender vessels has not been on the agenda of other tuna RFMOs.

According to the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC), even though proposals in that subject never prospered, as far as tender vessels contribute to increase the efficiency of the fishing vessels, they are a factor in the effective effort and they are “implicitly incorporated in the calculation of the optimum fishing mortality for a particular stock”.

Since measures aiming to reduce fishing mortality are still a priority to recover tuna stocks, maybe reducing fishing effort and fishing efficiency could have a milder impact than withdrawing and scrapping purse-seiners.