Data loading...

Tuna Fishing Nations Under-reporting Pacific Tuna Catches

More than a huge total of one million tons of the Western Central Pacific’s major commercial tuna catch appears to have escaped FAO statistics over the past three years, when comparing it to the same data provided by the WCPFC.

Skipjack, bigeye, yellowfin, albacore, and Atlantic, Southern and Pacific bluefin are the tuna’s that make up the main commercial species in the industry.

Statistics reported by tuna catching nations show dramatic differences in volumes of tuna catch reported to the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) and Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC).  In an era where sustainability is at the forefront of importance in the tuna industry, the reliability of tuna catch data is paramount in assessing the stocks of the ocean, especially in terms of the main commercial species, where overfishing can be a concerning issue. 

Daniel Pauly, a fisheries scientist at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver points to the importance of such data and says: “We can’t access the state of the oceans without knowing what is being taken out of them.”

While the WCPFC use the presence of on board observers to ensure thorough monitoring of commercial tuna catch in order to supply statistics that it believes are accurate and independent, the FAO confirmed that its tuna catch statistics are reported by national correspondents in the appropriate ministry or institution. These statistics are collected in the form of annual questionnaires which the countries then submit back to the FAO by the end of February each year.

But are the increasing concerns of overfishing the reason why the tuna fishing nations are reporting lower figures to the FAO? Fishing quotas have already been implemented in certain catching areas, and if overfishing of commercial tuna increases as a problem, the restrictions may have to become more stringent.

Implemented fishing bans in the Eastern Pacific Ocean (EPO) to sustain stocks of overfished tuna species could be encouraging major fishing nations to underreport volumes of catch from the western central Pacific while also focusing more efforts into catching less common tuna species to avoid such restrictions being enforced in the main tuna fishing ground.

The Philippines, according to FAO data the world second biggest tuna fishing nation, catching a large proportion of its tuna in the Western Pacific Ocean has recently been reported to have an overfished state in a whole ten out of 13 of its fishing grounds, which the Director of the Philippine Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources puts down to the country’s destructive fishing methods. Reporting high numbers of catch could only further provoke this accusation for a country that relies heavily on its tuna industry to aid its economy, and would suffer negative consequences from fishing bans such as have already been implemented in the Eastern Pacific Ocean (EPO) in an attempt to sustain depleting stocks of the commonly fished yellowfin tuna and bigeye.

Major fishing nations in recent years have also been seen to report higher numbers to the FAO on the volume of their catch of less common tuna species, such as bullet tuna and kawakawa. Indonesia, commonly ranking first in terms of major tuna catch globally has since the year 2000 reported dramatic increases in kawakawa catch, which in 2011 was recorded at over 140,000 tons. 

Kawakawa tuna catch only accounted for just over 5 percent of the total global tuna catch in 2011, but in that year alone, Indonesia reported a contribution of more than half of that total according to the FAO.