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Tuna Purse Seiners to Begin Fishery Improvement Project for Tuna Conservation

Tuna Sustainability Economics +3 more

GLOBAL - WWF and the Producers Association of Large Tuna Freezers (OPAGAC) have finalised the work plan for their Fishery Improvement Project (FIP) which will establish an appropriate management framework and good fishing practices for 40 large tuna purse seiners.

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After consulting with the FIP Advisory Group made up of expert stakeholders including NGOs, industry, academia and fisheries managers from governmental and Regional Fishery Management Organisations (RFMOs), OPAGAC and WWF have agreed on a roadmap to Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification for the OPAGAC fleet around the world.

OPAGAC, representing 40 purse seiners from seven countries that operate in the three oceans, has committed to a tough timeline of milestones for important improvements of its fishing operations to perform at the level of the MSC standard within the next five years.

A growing number of tropical tuna stocks are overfished including bigeye tuna in the Western Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, and yellowfin tuna in the Indian Ocean. This worrying trend results from incomplete management by RFMOs.

The gaps in measures include harvest control rules, well-defined reference points for tuna, and management of fish aggregating devices (FADs). In addition, there is urgent need to control fishing activities by longline vessels and the illegal use of driftnets.

Now, WWF, OPAGAC and other partners will implement the FIP and work with the RFMOs responsible for improving the management of tropical tuna fisheries through adoption of more appropriate regulatory frameworks for yellowfin, skipjack and bigeye tuna fisheries. The regulatory frameworks need harvest strategies and fishing levels based on the best available science, and that allow for maximum sustainable yield (MSY).

Robust management of FADs, for their effects on both target species and the ecosystem, will be a key component of this FIP. At this time OPAGAC has successfully changed from FADs that had the capacity to entangle marine animals, in particular sharks, to FADs that are non-entangling. Next steps include the development of biodegradable FADs to reduce marine pollution, as well as the improvement of the selectivity of sets done on FADs to reduce the capture of sharks and juvenile tuna.

The FIP work plan will be executed over the next five years with progress evaluated twice a year. After completing the FIP activities, OPAGAC may apply for MSC certification.