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Micronesian Bigeye Consultation During Boston Seafood Show United States, March 13, 12

A Fisheries Improvement Project (FIP) for the Federated States of Micronesia and Republic of the Marshall Islands longline bigeye tuna fisheries was initiated in 2011 by Norpac Fisheries Export and the Sustainable Fisheries Partnership.  The aim of the FIP is to improve governance and fishing practices to augment the ecological and economic sustainability of the FSM and RMI longline bigeye tuna fisheries.

These two fisheries’ primary target species is western and central Pacific Ocean bigeye tuna. Fishing grounds are in domestic waters (within the FSM and RMI 200 nautical mile EEZs).  The location of the FSM and RMI EEZs is shown in the figure, below.  Roughly 1,000 mt of bigeye tuna and 1,500 M/T of yellowfin tuna are annually landed by longline fisheries of the RMI and FSM.  In the RMI, bigeye tuna is primarily exported as fresh chilled product to markets in the US, China, and Canada.  Frozen product is also exported to China and sold locally.  In the FSM, fresh loins and frozen product are marketed directly to consumers or via marketing companies in the US, China, Japan, and Europe.

Due to limited observer coverage and inadequate data collection protocols, basic information to determine with any certainty the ecological risks posed by these longline fisheries is largely unavailable.  The stock of bigeye tuna taken in these fisheries is overexploited (overfishing is occurring and biomass is approaching an overfished state), and it is unclear at this stage if regional management measures are adequate to correct this, and whether surveillance and enforcement are resulting in compliance with domestic and regional input and output control measures.

A FIP stakeholder consultation meeting was convened on 11 March 2012, the opening day of the Boston Seafood Show. The purposes of this meeting were to (i) introduce the companies and organizations with an interest in the ecological and economic sustainability of the FSM and RMI longline bigeye tuna fisheries to the purpose, process and governance of the Fisheries Improvement Project, and (ii) receive stakeholders’ input to improve planned activities aimed at improving the governance and fishing practices.