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Western Pacific Bring USD 4 Billion Raw Tuna To Markets

Tuna catches in the western Pacific hit record levels in 2012 and coincided with record global market prices that bumped the value of the fishery to an all-time high of over USD 4 billion, according to a report presented to the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission’s scientific committee that met in Pohnpei last week.

The total estimated tuna catch was 2,613,528 metric tons last year, “the highest on record, eclipsing the previous record in 2009 by 12,000 metric tons,” said the report. This volume of tuna accounts for an estimated 60 percent of the total global catch of tuna, according to the report.

The eight member nations of the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) are also seeing record levels of revenue this year from tuna caught in their waters. PNA revenues are up from USD 60 million annually in 2010 to over USD 240 million this year.

Marshall Islands fisheries Director Glen Joseph said fisheries revenue in the Marshalls has tripled. It’s a success story for all PNA members, Joseph said. “All PNA countries have doubled or tripled their revenue under the vessel day scheme (or VDS),” he said. “With the new benchmark minimum VDS price of USD 6,000 starting in January 2014, the sky is the limit.”

But he cautioned, all of this PNA success is based on the unity the eight members have been able to maintain. “If we don’t stay together, we won’t be able to keep benefiting,” he said.

Last week’s report, prepared by officials from the Secretariat of the Pacific Community and the Forum Fisheries Agency, broke down the tuna catch in 2012:

• The yellow fin tuna catch set an all-time high of 655,668 metric tons, more than 70,000 tons higher than the previous record.
• The bigeye tuna catch of 161,679 metric tons was the highest since 2004, when a bigeye volume record was set.
• The albacore tuna catch of 131,872 metric tons was the second highest on record
• The skipjack catch came in as the third highest ever at 1,664,309 metric tons.

Purse seiner fishing boats drove the record tuna catch in 2012, accounting for nearly 70 percent of all tuna caught. This was largely due to a record number of purse seiners — 297 — operating in the western and central Pacific area during 2012.

The fleet of purse seiners registered in Pacific islands “has been clearly the highest producer in the tropical purse seiner fishery since 2003,” the report said. And an increase in U.S.-flagged purse seiners fishing has resulted in a “sharp increase” in catch.

The report said the estimated “delivered value” of tuna caught in the western and central Pacific was over USD 4 billion in 2012.