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Sealord Signs Pledge Reducing Non-tuna By-catch By 0,6% By 2015 New Zealand, January 31, 13

Fishing company Sealord says in the New Zealand Herald that it has signed an international environment pledge which is aimed to drastically reduce by-catch by 2015. The pledge would reduce non-tuna by-catch from 1.6% to 1.0% maximum.

Sealord is the first New Zealand company to sign the World Wildlife Federation’s (WWF) western central Pacific tuna conservation pledge, which focuses on ensuring tuna fishing is well managed.

“WWF welcomes Sealord's decision to sign the...(pledge) and their support for targeted conservation measures that reduce by-catch in their supply chain,” WWF’s western central Pacific tuna program officer Alfred Cook said.

Sealord general manager Stu Yorston said the company wanted to back up the signing of the WWF tuna pledge with a measurable target.

“Sealord’s aim is to see non-tuna by-catch reduced to no more than 1 percent of total catch by 2015,” he said.

According scientific data this represents a reduction of 0,6% from the current 1,6% of non-tuna species by-catch.

1 percent non tuna by-catch would translate in roughly 320 kgs of rainbow runners, sharks, manta’s and turtles per each time a net would be set out on a FAD. Observer and scientific data shows that tuna purse seiners in the Western Central Pacific which set their net on FADs will catch an average of 32000 kg of fish in one set, with an average net content of 73% of skipjack tuna which is the targeted tuna species.

Beside the skipjack – also 25.8% of non-targeted tuna - yellowfin and bigeye tuna are caught. Data shows these are mostly juveniles and have not reached their productive size, which is close to 18 kgs. The included average by-catch of 6,9 % mostly juvenile bigeye tuna is especially worrying biologists en resource managers. Bigeye stocks are plummeting and the species is believed to be in over-fished state in the Western Pacific Ocean.

In case of purse seiners targeting free swimming schools of skipjack tuna, the non-tuna by-catch is already at this moment at 0,4% according to RFMO data. This FAD free catching method targets schools of mature tuna’s only, lowering the by-catch of the overfished bigeye tuna only to 0,8%.

Sealord plans to buy tuna only from the best performing fishermen in the Western Central Pacific, based on catch data from each trip. However the company says such data is not yet available. Sealord says it would make use of tools, such as the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation Proactive Vessel Register to track an individual vessel’s fishing practices, according to Mr. Yorston. So far this register does not specify catching methods or by-catch percentages per registered vessel yet.