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USD 150 Million To Improve Global Tuna Sustainability Global, November 5, 13

Global Environment Facility (GEF) CEO Naoko Ishii approved a project to improve the health and sustainability of tuna fisheries worldwide by reducing illegal catch and supporting related marine ecosystems and species.

The GEF, an international institution uniting 183 countries to address global environmental issues and support sustainable development, approved funding for the implementation phase of the multi-partner project coordinated by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) that aims to improve management of tuna fisheries on the high seas and conserve biodiversity of related marine ecosystems and species. It will cut down on illegal catches of the far-ranging, highly-prized and globally consumed fish.

“Today’s decision sets the stage for action on a global scale that will address both an economic and environmental threat to one of the world’s most important commercial fish species,” Ishii said. “I am pleased that we are able to bring together both public and private partners in this project, which give us a fighting chance to work on a scale sufficient to reverse negative trends threatening the global tuna fishery and the ocean environment that sustains it.”

To date, USD 30 million in GEF grants has leveraged more than USD 150 million of co-financing in support of the project, which forms part of a broader multi-stakeholder initiative working to ensure that these precious resources are harvested in a sustainable way.

The new global tuna project on fisheries management and biodiversity conservation—set to run from 2013 through 2018—brings together a wide group of stakeholders to work on three key fronts:

Fostering more sustainable and efficient fisheries management and wider uptake of best fishing practices.
• Reducing illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing through strengthened monitoring, control and surveillance.

• Reducing ecosystem impacts from fishing, including unintended and excessive “by-catch” of non-targeted marine life.

“High-seas fisheries support the food security and livelihoods of millions of people worldwide," said Árni M. Mathiesen, FAO Assistant Director-General for Fisheries and Aquaculture. “Through collective action at all levels and broad cooperation that optimizes the use of scarce resources, this project - and the wider Common Oceans initiative - will help move the world away from ‘the race to fish’ and towards implementation of an ecosystem approach. This is crucial to ensuring the future well-being and productivity of these vital marine ecosystems.”

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) is one of a number of key players are partnering with FAO, including the five tuna RFMO’s, the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA), Parties of the Nauru Agreement (PNA), the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency (NOAA), the Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels (ACAP), Birdlife International, the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation (ISSF) the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) and the private sector such as members of the fish harvesting and processing industries.

Tunas and tuna-like species make up the most valuable fishery resource caught in the marine Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction (ABNJ). Highly migratory tuna account for about 20 percent of the value of all marine capture fisheries – catches of just the most important tuna species are worth over USD 10 billion annually.

Around 5.4 million tons are landed each year, with over 85 countries harvesting tuna in commercial quantities. Capture levels are highest in the Pacific Ocean, followed by the Atlantic and Indian Oceans.

FAO estimates that about one third of the world’s seven major tuna species are currently overexploited. Given continued strong consumer demand for products like sashimi and canned tuna, combined with overcapacity of fishing fleets, the status of tuna stocks is likely to deteriorate further if fisheries management is not improved.

“By transforming the way we manage global fisheries like tuna, we are ensuring a sustainable source of seafood that can help support a seven-billion-person planet while conserving nature,” said Michele Kuruc, World Wildlife Fund vice president for marine conservation. “By harnessing the power of government, fisheries management organizations, civil society and the private sector, this innovative partnership can deliver meaningful change on the water and throughout communities around the world.”