Observer programmes are a key component of the monitoring and management of fisheries globally. Combined with vessel tracking, port side enumerators and logbooks, observer programmes collect and verify critical data at-sea needed to strengthen fisheries science and provide the much needed “eyes and ears” on the water. In many one-by-one tuna fisheries, observer initiatives help evidence the low environmental footprint, and provide critical information on species composition, fuel use, and baitfish catches. At-sea observer programmes can also provide additional assurances for supply chain stakeholders in terms of traceability, quality, and welfare of the fishing crew. The high-quality data they collect play a key role in the overall sustainability and management of coastal tuna fisheries around the world. IPNLF promotes and advocates for such initiatives in one-by-one fisheries globally, and has developed fishery specific programmes in it focal project areas of the Maldives and Indonesia.
OBSERVERS IN THE AZORES
A shining example of a fisheries observer initiative can be found in the remote North Atlantic islands of the Azores. The fishery is the focus of one of the world’s longest standing, non-stop tuna fisheries monitoring programmes, managed by the newest IPNLF Partner, the Azores Fisheries Observer Program (POPA). The programme has collected data on the pole-and-line tuna fishery, several species of cetaceans, sea turtles and seabirds, as well as marine litter and selected environmental parameters for almost 20 years, and currently covers over 50% of the pole-and-line fishing operations. POPA’s database contains over five million records covering information on approximately one million square miles of ocean environment. The data have contributed to numerous peer reviewed and published papers.
As well as supporting scientific publications, POPA highlights findings through an annual publication for the fishers and fishery stakeholders. The booklet includes information on estimated catches, landed tuna weight and price per kg, marine litter sightings, a map of Azorean tuna product flows, and geo-referenced catches of tuna and live bait.
The transparency offered by this unique observer programme is what makes the Azores one-by-one tuna fishery one of the best monitored in the world. The participatory approach taken by the stakeholders involved including the fishers, IMAR - Institute of Marine Research (POPA management) based on the University of the Azores, the Fishing Boat Owners Association (APASA), Tuna Canning Industry Association (Pão do Mar), and the Regional Administration (POPA funding).
Hats off to the Azores for their longstanding commitment to data collection, monitoring, and transparency. We are proud to be working hand-in-hand with such innovative fishery stakeholders, including our Members APASA, FPA, and Pão-do-Mar. In aid of progressing our joint mission to protect and promote the most socially and environmentally responsible sources of tuna, we will be co-hosting the world’s first One-by-One Tuna Fisheries Conference in October 2017 on the island of Faial, Azores. This event will gather global leaders in the one-by-one tuna sector to share experiences around best practice, discuss solutions to shared challenges, and explore collaborative ways to progress the sector.