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Purse Seine Fleets Hold “The Power” Pacific Ocean, October 29, 13

The longline tuna fleet has become subject to increased regulations including potential cuts in its bigeye tuna fishing limit and the proposal of on board video monitoring in the Western and Central Pacific. In reaction to a recent article published by atuna.com, it appears that some believe that the political power of the purse seine tuna fleet allows for the responsibility for bigeye sustainability problems to be put onto the lap of the longline tuna fleet.



Earlier this month, atuna.com reported that the Hawaii longline fishery in the Pacific faced the proposal of a 45 percent cut in its bigeye tuna quota, with potential to close the fishery early each year. The developed proposal by the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) was being urged by the Hawaiian based Western Pacific Regional Management Council to not be accepted by the US.

Ken Banwell, an atuna.com reader, commented on the article. He said: “Once again we see the politically powerful purse seiner fleet and their secret supporters taking the onus off themselves and placing it in the lap of the longline fleet. Although not officially acknowledged, the catch of this juvenile bigeye taken by these vessels is nothing short of scandalous.”

After contacting Banwell for further insight, he added: “In my opinion, the purse seine fleets have an enormous amount of ‘pull’ in the corridors of power in countries such as Japan, the US and in the EU. There is no other reason for why they can get away with what they do.”

He explained his views that purse seine vessels “have enjoyed the ability to operate in environments where there have tended to be little or no media coverage and very little sign (until recently) of the likes of Greenpeace and their ilk.”

“Seiners have operated unabated, not only taking their target species but also taking scary volumes of non-target species such as juvenile tuna (as well as adult fish I might add). This, I believe is resulting in big drop in the number of adult bigeye taken for sashimi purposes. But perhaps the biggest scandal is the volume of discards seiners are responsible for.”

Just last week, the WCPFC was reported to be considering on-board monitoring on 3,000 Pacific longline tuna vessels. With a substantial portion of the tuna longline fleet lacking on-board observers, the WCPFC saw this as an effective alternative. The commission outlined, however, that the new system would not be used on purse seiners as the WCPFC did not want to take the current jobs away from Pacific island observers.

Banwell concluded: “In the fisheries that I am involved in (longlining in Australia and New Zealand) observer coverage is reasonably high but also prohibitively expensive in an industry where costs have grown out of control already. Video monitoring? Who will be made to pay? Who will pay for the incredible time it will take to watch video footage of 3,000 vessels’ hauling and shooting activities? Is video monitoring of fish discarding on purse seiners compulsory?”