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Fine Tuning Tuna Fisheries

BANGKOK - Dr Shiham Adam of the International Pole & Line Foundation has warned that improvements must be made to traditional fisheries practices to ensure the fast-growing demand for pole-and-line tuna can be met without compromising on sustainability.

Speaking on the opening day of the INFOFISH World Tuna and Trade Conference in Bangkok (23-25 May), Dr Adam, who is also the Director General of the Marine Research Centre in the Maldives, stressed that pole-and-line tuna fishing is vital to many disadvantaged rural areas, including several in the Maldives, because it generates a fair income and alleviates poverty within fishing communities, reports Fish News EU.

Dr Adam said that the Maldives pole-and-line fishery dates back at least 800 years and that prior to the arrival of tourism, it was the most important national activity, providing both a viable means of income and the only source of protein for many Maldivians.

The Maldives tuna industry currently employs about 30,000 people; nearly half of them in the catching sector and the rest in the equally important post-harvest sector. This is a large percentage of the working population. Furthermore, recent income and expenditure surveys have shown that the average monthly income in its fisheries industry stands at about US$ 900. This is almost four times the countrys minimum wage of around US$ 250. The bottom line is that pole-and-line tuna fishing is an activity that can give a decent standard of living to many families in the outer islands, he said.

Dr Adam told the INFOFISH conference that the global tuna industry is undergoing a period of rapid transformation and he applauded the efforts of those retailers and major brands that have so far made commitments to procuring sustainably and equitably caught pole-and-line tuna. However, he said that every care needs to be taken to correctly nurture these fisheries to make sure they can move forwards by improving their efficiency and productivity.

I have been working in fisheries, mainly pole-and-line tuna, for 15 years, and I understand that there is no such thing as a perfect fishery, but pole-and-line is as good as it gets for tuna. In saying this, the International Pole & Line Foundation recognises some improvements are necessary to coordinate the supply of this real increase in demand for pole-and-line caught tuna and to avoid issues of over-capacity in the fisheries.

This is where the Foundation comes in. Our Mission is to improve the standard of living for socially and economically disadvantaged fishing communities around the world. We aim to use the market as a trigger, to promote and foster the benefits of sustainably sourced pole-and-line tuna. We will channel our resources to support pole-and-line fisheries to get market access, improve postharvest and quality control, and eventually increase environmental performance of these fisheries so that they may qualify to be sustainably and environmentally certified.

Its a sad fact that many pole-and-line fishermens livelihoods are now at risk but the Foundation has identified that end markets could act as lifelines by preventing further marginalisation of small scale fishing communities. The IPNLF is therefore encouraging buyers to implement long-term contracts, facilitate capacity building, knowledge and business literacy transfer. The Foundation is committed to greening fishery activities; such as finding ways to improve fuel use intensity and minimising waste. We will also conduct further research into understanding the issues with livebait fisheries, and work with governments and communities to identify areas of intervention, including supporting mariculture pilot projects and conducting trials on alternative sources of bait, Dr Adam concluded.