Three actions countries managing Tuna need to take this week

Whether you enjoy eating tuna in your lunchbox sandwich, have a stake in the long-term sustainability and livelihoods of Pacific tuna fishing nations, or simply care about the future of healthy oceans and fish populations—it’s worth taking note of an important convening this week that could decide the future of sustainable tuna.

The Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC), an international treaty organization of 35 member nations and territories charged with negotiating the management for tuna, sharks and rays, is meeting this week in Honolulu. These species are classified as highly migratory, meaning they swim through internationally managed waters, making collective management a necessity.

Tuna in particular, are highly valuable and face several thorny challenges that have resulted in less than optimal socioeconomic and biological performance, including weaknesses in current management that has allowed illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, interactions with sharks, as well as human rights abuses. That’s why decisions made at this forum are so important.

The ultimate goal is to manage for healthy tuna populations that can support both the livelihoods and food security for Pacific Islands fishing communities and a thriving global industry. To achieve both of these outcomes, nations must put politics aside and focus on putting science-based management in place to rebuild tuna populations to a level that can support sustainable harvesting by all users now and for the future.

Specific outcomes we’d like to see:

Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) and our fishing partners in the region have identified three important decisions the Commission can make this week to set the course for thriving tuna populations.

1. Improve management and monitoring of longline fishing activities. Monitoring of longline fishing activities in the Western and Central Pacific is extremely limited, currently less than 5% of fishing trips carry human observers. The lack of monitoring prevents transparency in the fishery, creating opportunities for illegal and unreported fishing activities, poor treatment of crew and illegal shark finning. EDF, along with other environmental organizations working in the region, are advocating for the Commission to move towards 100% monitoring of longline fishing activities and a review and eventual strengthening of the measure that manages the movement of fish between fishing vessels, known as transshipment.

2. Advance work plan to achieve sustainable tuna stocks. A work plan to develop harvest strategies for these species was adopted in 2015, but is facing delays in implementation. Our goal is for the Commission to reinvigorate their efforts to translate this plan into practice to ensure sustainability of these key stocks. The harvest strategies approach would allow for more nimble responses to changes in the health of important species and ensure management decisions are driven by shared and agreed upon goals.

3. Support the establishment of specific management goals, known as reference points, for the Southern Albacore tuna fishery. Specifically we hope to see the Commission adopt a “target reference point” (TRP), which is the level of albacore abundance at which fishing countries will work together to maintain over the long-term. This will ensure catch and effort in the fishery are sustainable and take into account the socioeconomic needs and rights of the Pacific Islands.

The Pacific Islands Tuna Industry Association (PITIA), which works directly with Pacific Islands fishers sees the adoption of a TRP by the Commission as a key component for the vitality of its industry members.  “We all have a shared goal of ensuring sustainable fisheries,” said John Maefiti, Executive Officer of PITIA. “At present the stock isn’t large enough to support the Pacific Island communities and industry that depend on this fishery. Adopting a TRP for the Southern Pacific Albacore fishery can help rebuild it to economically viable levels again for the tuna industry. These management measures will not only make the Pacific Island fleets more profitable, but the fleets from distant water nations more profitable as well.”

We will be actively engaged at the meeting this week, watching for the Commission members to make the right decisions for tuna management and looking forward to continued engagement with stakeholders in the region. There’s too much at stake for us to not act now.

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Five reasons for hope on World Fisheries Day 2018

You may not have it on your calendar – but today is World Fisheries Day – a moment to celebrate the incredible bounty that we receive from the sea. It’s also an opportunity to take stock and reflect on where we’ve been, and where we’re headed. As we look back over the past year, the EDF Oceans team has been struck by how much the global oceans community has accomplished. And we’re increasingly optimistic and energized about the future health and resilience of our oceans. Here are five reasons for hope on World Fisheries Day. Read More »

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New research sheds light on how to assess coral reef ecosystem health


Coral reefs play many important roles for marine ecosystems and communities, including for biodiversity, fishing, recreation and tourism. They are a source of livelihoods to communities all over the world. Their beauty and ecological importance inspire citizen scientists globally to get involved in reef health monitoring and projects that help ocean ecosystems.

However, coral reefs worldwide face an uncertain future, with many reefs reportedly transitioning from being dominated by corals, to being dominated by macroalgae. This transition threatens all of those who depend on healthy coral ecosystems around the world. This new research, which I contributed to, reveals that we may have more opportunities to save corals than previously thought. Read More »

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New hope for Indigenous fishing communities in Chile

On a cold morning, we descend a bumpy dirt road through a forest of ancient alerce trees. As the forest clears, we arrive at a rugged coastline, dotted with fishing villages. The smell of smoke rises through the fog and combines with a salty sea breeze as villagers warm bread over their wood stoves, and fishers ready their boats for a day on the water. For centuries, these Indigenous Mapuche villages have lived off the thriving marine life of the Humboldt Current, a cold upwelling on Chile’s west coast that delivers abundance and a source of food and livelihood from the sea to the whole nation.

Photo credit Luciano Hiriart-Bertrand, Costa Humboldt

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Can marine conservation be more effective by cooperating across boundaries?

This week, world leaders are convening in Bali, Indonesia for the Our Ocean Conference. This event is dedicated to conserving and protecting ocean ecosystems so that the world’s swelling population can continue to rely on oceans for food and livelihoods for generations to come. The timing and location of this week’s conference are particularly acute following recent confirmation by the IPCC that nations must act quickly and in cooperation to limit climate change. This is especially important in Asia, where most of the world’s fish are produced and consumed, and fishing is rapidly accelerating to meet growing demands.

Meeting marine conservation challenges that are shared across many nations in Asia can be done more efficiently, effectively, and quickly if we work together across national boundaries. Read More »

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The Mesoamerican Reef: A shared vision for prosperity and conservation

Working with the next generation of conservation leaders in the MAR

Transformative change on an ecosystem scale is extremely challenging. But in the Mesoamerican Reef (MAR)— stretching 600 miles of coral reefs, mangrove forests and seagrass beds along the coasts of Mexico, Belize, Guatemala and Honduras—sustaining a rich array of biodiversity and thousands of local people, it is happening. Leaders from all four countries recently convened on a shared vision for prosperity and empowered coastal communities—setting a new course for sustainable fishing and ecotourism in the region.

The complex balance of the coral reefs, mangroves and seagrasses protect and nurture more than 500 species of fish—essential in these countries for food security, economic development, and poverty alleviation. The beauty of the reefs attract visitors and ecotourism dollars to local communities. Read More »

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