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5000 Small Tuna Longliners Roaming The Oceans Now

Mr. Jiro Suzuki, the Pelagic Fish Section Chief of the National Research Institute of Far Seas Fisheries, made a presentation at the OPRT (Organization for the Promotion of Responsible Tuna Fisheries) Conference on the 10th of this month in Tokyo. He addressed the state of the industry in all oceans, especially the South Pacific and Indian Oceans. Mr. Suzuki focused on the increasing prevalence of small tuna longliners of the 50-100ton class, and their high fish-catching ability.

Of special concern – in the South Pacific, the sudden, sharp increase in small tuna longliners. These vessels have an equivalent fish catching ability to larger vessels, using the same 3000-hook longlines.

Up until now the area’s fishing industry’s resource management organisations have tended to focus on the activity of large purse-seining vessels, according to Mr. Suzuki. With the exception of the IOTC, the real state of the small vessel longline fishery is little known. But the data, if available, would most likely reveal a significant increase in this sector.

According to Mr Suzuki the IOTCs records show 1500 small longliners operating in the Indian Ocean in 2010. These vessels have outnumbered large vessels (over 150 tons) since 1990. In particular, small Taiwanese vessels have increased dramatically in number. Mr. Suzuki’s investigations on seas outside the Indian Ocean have revealed the following numbers of small longliners operating;

-In the WCPFC (Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission) area – 1800 vessels.

-In the IATTC (Inter-America Tropical Tuna Commission) area – 1000 vessels.

-In the ICCAT (International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas) area – 1000-2000 vessels.

In addition to these figures, there are known to be 50-60 Taiwanese small longline vessels currently under construction.

The reasons behind this sudden increase in small longliners (in addition to their increasing fish-catching abilities) include;

-Increasing enthusiasm among South Pacific Nations to develop their fishing industries.

-Taiwanese vessels being converted to albacore fishing due to prohibitions in the sharkfin fishing industry.

-The relatively inexpensive construction costs of these vessels compared to large longliners.

In addition to these factors, the increasing use of refrigerated containers, which are perfectly suited to transporting the smaller quantities, dispatched from small longline vessels. This is also driving the adoption of these vessels, according to Mr. Suzuki.

Through his investigations Mr. Suzuki has discovered the real extent of the small-longliners proliferation in the industry. He concludes that in order to protect the resource from over-exploitation, Japan must take the initiative in aiding the regulation of the various areas’ fisheries.