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Report Counts Fishing Capacity of World Tuna Fleets

by the Fish Site Editor
13 July 2009, at 1:00am

GLOBE - A new scientific paper has been released by the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation addressing the issues of fishing capacity in the world tuna fleets.

Tuna fisheries comprise about 5 per cent of the world production of marine fishes, but a much larger proportion of the total value, says the report. There is continuing high demand for tunas and this fact results in a continuing and increasing interest in capturing them.

There are 23 stocks of the principal market species of tuna that are the focus of intense fishing pressure. Three of the 4 bluefin stocks are overfished (stock abundance is less than that corresponding to a level at which it can support the maximum sustainable yield (MSY)). Of the 4 stocks of yellowfin, one is in an overfished state and for 3 overfishing (fishing mortality is greater than that corresponding to that level needed to sustain the stock at MSY) is occurring. Of the 4 stocks of bigeye, one is overfished and over fishing is occurring for 2 of them. Of the 6 stocks of albacore, 2 are overfished, and overfishing is occurring for only one of them. All 5 of the skipjack stocks are above the level of abundance corresponding to MSY, and fishing mortality is less than the MSY level.

The simple reason why many of these stocks are in an overfished state and why overfishing is occurring is that there is too much fishing effort; and the reason that there is too much fishing effort is that there are too many boats fishing.

The tuna regional fisheries management organizations (TRFMO) have attempted to correct this situation by implementing a variety of measures to control fishing mortality. These measures have included input controls such as limits on the number of vessels that can fish, closed areas and seasons, and limits on fishing effort, and output controls such as catch quotas and minimum size limits.

Many of these efforts have not been successful in curtailing overfishing. As with most if not all command-and-control regulations, perverse economic incentives are established to circumvent regulations rather than positive economic incentives aligned with social goals reflected in the regulations. Moreover, command-and-control approaches hinder economic efficiency since individual vessels cannot alter catches and their operations to best achieve profitability and efficiency.

The purpose of this document is to identify the factors that have made successful management of the worlds tuna resources difficult, and to suggest a variety of approaches that could help to mollify these difficulties. The study concludes that there is too much fishing capacity in the tuna fisheries and that this leads to difficulties in implementing conservation measures. It is suggested that growth in fishing capacity of the world’s tuna fleets needs to be curtailed, and eventually reduced.

Further Reading

- You can view the full report by clicking here.

the Fish Site Editor