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Why Thailand’s Tonggol Has Declined So Dramatically

A recent three year funding allocation from the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA) will allow continued work and progression in the management of tonggol tuna.

Thailand’s tonggol tuna stocks, also known as longfin is under continued investigation by the Sustainable Fisheries Partnership’s (SFP) Fishery Improvement Project (FIP), to assess the state of this tuna species caught by purse seiners operating in the Gulf of Thailand and the Andaman Sea.

Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) statistics show out of the main catching nations of the tonggol tuna species, Thailand, listed in the top four is an anomaly in a trend of either sustained or increased volume of catch by the other major nations.

In fact, Thailand’s tonggol catch has decreased so dramatically since 1990; the FAO data now shows figures of around only a sixth in 2012 of what they were then.

Duncan Leadbitter, Technical Director for SFP said: “One of the key things we are dealing with as part of the FIP is putting in place management in Thai waters. The Department of Fisheries has agreed to prepare a management plan for tonggol in Thai waters which is the first one of these plans in Southeast Asia, so a welcome step forward.

“Tonggol is a bit of a Cinderella of the tuna world – not considered a major player like oceanic tunas, but quietly important and yet not subject to effective management.”

But Duncan believes that the decline in reported catches in Thailand is mainly due to the changes in access. He outlines that for many years, Thai vessels used to fish in waters adjacent to Thailand but these countries have moved them out and forced Thailand into negotiating access agreements to resolve this.

Tonggol tuna is mainly used for canned products, although it does also hit the market in fresh form, with a tender meat that has an almost white form.

There is limited data however available on the volume of the catch of tonggol and the current status of its stocks as it is mainly caught by small local vessels, making monitoring more difficult.



But the FIP hopes to gain an understanding of the number and distribution of
tonggol stocks, especially in the South China Sea, incorporating the local waters to Thailand and have been collecting DNA data to try and estimate this.

“One key thing for us to deal with is establishing a dialogue with other countries in order to discuss about cross border assessments and management.” Said Duncan.