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The World's Richest Skipjack Tuna Catching Ground Pacific Islands Nations, September 14, 12

Tuna purse seiners have been flocking to the western waters of the Pacific Ocean to catch skipjack in recent years. In 2010 and 2011, especially, the purse seine effort was highly concentrated in the waters of Papua New Guinea, Federated States of Micronesia, and Solomon Islands – making this region the world’s richest source of skipjack tuna.
According to the latest report from the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC), in 2010 and 2011, there were more sets on free-swimming schools of tuna and more fishing days spent here than in other parts of the ocean.
The skipjack purse seine catch for the Western and Central Pacific was 1,330,667 MT last year. That’s about 33% of the global catch of all tuna species, which was estimated to be about four million tons. In comparison, skipjack catches were about 284,700 tons in the Eastern Pacific Ocean in 2011, or about 7% of last year’s global tuna catch.
The western tropical region especially increased in popularity due to the strong La Niña conditions that were present in the last two years. In the following map, the pie graphs show the 2011 distribution of the purse seine skipjack (blue), yellowfin (yellow) and bigeye (red) tuna catch. The larger circles are representative of the increased fishing effort.

La Niña is a weather pattern that lowers ocean temperatures and tends to restrict fishing activity to these parts of the Pacific.
This year, however, there have been predictions of a weak El Niño and the fleets are expected to spread out to the east. Fishing conditions tend to be more favorable in the area near Kiribati as a result of the warmer water temperatures. Besides the Gilbert Islands and the Phoenix Islands, it’s typical for vessels to fish as far east as the Line Islands in the Central Pacific, says John Hampton, Oceanic Fisheries Program manager at the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC).
He adds there is a fair bit of transshipment now occurring in the Central Pacific, which is an indicator that the fleet is operating in that area more so that it did in 2010 and 2011.
According to the U.S. Climate Prediction Center, there are ongoing signs of a “possibly imminent transition” towards El Niño in the atmosphere as well as the ocean. The official forecast calls for the development of mostly likely a weak El Niño during September and the meteorologists expect the conditions to persist until December or early 2013.