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Limiting Longline Effort On Bigeye: “Penny Wise But Pound Foolish”

Longline fishing companies catching adult bigeye in the western Pacific Ocean are likely to face restrictions as growing concern surrounds the stock status of this species.


While strong efforts from the WCPFC have already been focused towards reducing the amount of fishing on FADs by purse seine fleets, environmental group Greenpeace says that longline fishing companies are also likely to face restriction measures.

Thomas Kraft, Managing Director of Norpac Fisheries Export in Hawaii, one of the main catchers of bigeye via longline said: “Targeting longline fleets, which catch predominantly mature bigeye tuna is being penny wise but pound foolish. Purse seine effort and catch is exponentially greater, and the observer data, as well as the recent ISSF publications, squarely place the problem of bigeye overfishing on juvenile catch by purse seine vessels utilizing FADs to capture skipjack tuna.”
Recent reports have shown the PNA Secretariat raising concern over the sustainability of the bigeye stocks. The Secretariat is due to present draft measures to a critical working group of the WCPFC. Among other proposals they call for a gradual cut on longline fishing.
But Thomas Kraft does not agree that this is where the solution lies:  “It may be a bit disingenuous to now target longliners, while continually turning a blind eye to the crux of the problem, and where a solution to overfishing of bigeye is truly achievable.
“It may just be a game of big money versus independent, small businesses (which many longline operators are). Big businesses make huge profits off FAD fishing and the by-catch of juvenile tuna adds to that profitability. Money talks and small businesses walk…the plank.”
Regulations could have severe impact on the over 25 nations fishing for bigeye using longline vessels in this region. According to the WCPFC, in 2011 they caught a combined total of over 63,000 tons of this lucrative fish.