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Tension In Pacific Rises Between Local And Industrial Tuna Fishers

Growing competition for tuna between large industrial vessels and small-scale local fisheries has prompted a policy brief to alert Pacific Island nations of the problem which could have a huge effect on the catch of important tuna to these types of fishers.

Rivalry between local fisheries (artisanal) and large vessels is creating tension when there is competition for the same fish, and the Secretariat of Pacific Community (SPC) has been requested by the Heads of Pacific Islands Fisheries Departments to observe this situation.

This contention is increased when the industrial catch is large, and the vessels, both small and big are fishing for the same species, in the same area and during the same season.

Dr. Shelton Harley, head of the Oceanic Fisheries Programme’s Stock Assessment and Management group at SPC says: “There are now fewer fish in the water to catch. In addition, more fish are being taken than ever before by the industrial fleet, and more of the industrial catch is being taken closer to artisanal fishing grounds.”

He outlined that this increase in fishing activity is one of three changes that have raised concerns towards this competition, adding: “Taken together, these three factors can bring industrial fishing operations directly into competition with artisanal operations.”
In tropical waters the competition is for skipjack and yellowfin tuna, but with the increasing use of fish aggregation devices (FADs) large industrial vessels are unintentionally catching other species such as mahi mahi, wahoo and rainbow runner.
These species are important to the artisanal fisheries, and this activity is decreasing their catch potential. In subtropical areas, the large vessels target albacore, but similarly the bycatch includes species important to the smaller, local fisheries such as yellowfin and wahoo.
Dr. Harley, speaking of a number of solutions to combat the problem, said that their needs to be an establishment of industrial fishing exclusive zones and the installation of near shore FADs to make fish increasingly accessible to artisanal fisheries. An Improved understanding of the activities of small-scale fisheries will also help to improve the situation.
SPC will work individually with Pacific nations to identify the extent of the issue and the alterations they can make to help eradicate the problem.