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Upcoming El Nino, Bad And Good News For Tuna Catches Global, August 29, 12

American meteorologists are forecasting El Nino conditions for the rest of the year, and the warmer water temperatures will strongly affect tuna catches in the Eastern and Western Pacific Ocean.

During the last four weeks, equatorial sea surface temperatures have been more than 0.5ºC above average across the Eastern Pacific Ocean, according to the Climate Prediction Center of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The continued warmth, along with model forecasts, means there is “increased confidence for a weak-to-moderate El Nino during the Northern Hemisphere fall and winter 2012-13.”

The climate pattern occurs across the tropical Pacific Ocean about every five years and it is known to drive tuna stocks away from fishing grounds off the eastern coast of South America. In 2010, skipjack catches in the Eastern Pacific Ocean (EPO) declined by more than half, when compared to 2008 levels, after an El Nino period developed in mid-2009 and continued into the first quarter of 2010.

To escape the warmer temperatures, tuna fish migrate west where fishermen in the Western and Central Pacific (WCP) eagerly wait for the favorable fishing conditions. In 2009, skipjack catches increased by about 10% in the WCP from the previous year. Similarly in 2010, skipjack catches in the WCP were about 6% higher than 2008 levels, reaching 1,610,578 tons.

According to the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission, the organization in charge of the region’s management, fishing effort typically expands to the east during El Nino years and contracts to western areas of the WCP (Papua New Guinea, Federated States of Micronesia and Solomon Islands) during periods of its cooler opposite, La Nina.

Korean tuna giant, Dongwon, is already anticipating higher profits this year due to the influx of tuna in its fishing region.

The Climate Prediction Center indicates El Nino conditions are likely to develop during August or September.