IPNLF publishes baitfish study

Pole-and-line fisheries need 25,000 tonnes of baitfish to catch tuna each year, according to a new International Pole & Line Foundation (IPNLF) report released today. The figure is the first global estimate of baitfish – small fish released into the sea to attract tuna schools within range of a vessel’s fishing gear – used in tuna caught with the pole-and-line method.

The report, Ensuring Sustainability of Livebait Fish, identifies several environmental and social issues associated with fishing for this bait, but in particular the use of juveniles and the complex interactions between live baitfish fisheries and local communities and tourism industries.

The study calls for more research into these impacts. It also argues that improving management in bait fisheries through the introduction of management plans and stock assessments could resolve most of these issues and ensure that pole-and-line remains the most responsible and sustainable way to fish for tuna.

“Pole-and-line fishing is one of the most environmentally and socially desirable methods of catching tuna, but like any method, it isn’t perfect,” said lead author Steve Rocliffe, of the University of York’s Environment Department. “As demand for responsibly sourced tuna grows, it’s vital to ensure that the bait fisheries on which pole-and-line depends are well-managed and regularly assessed.”

“Sustainable live bait fisheries are in everyone’s interests” said Andrew Bassford, co-founder of the IPNLF. “As a priority, we’re developing best practise guidelines for baitfish management plans and providing skill sharing, training and capacity building to improve community and coastal states’ ability to manage baitfish fisheries on a long-term sustainable and equitable basis.”

The not-for-profit IPNLF was founded to help pole-and-line fisheries increase the market share of their product. In an industry dominated by heavy industrial fishing, many pole-and-line fishers have seen their local resources diminish and their livelihoods put under immense pressure in recent years.

IPNLF believes these fisheries can be rehabilitated back to health and entire fishing communities strengthened by increasing the market potential of their tuna caught using the traditional pole-and-line method. The Foundation’s view is that this requires minor capital investment and would provide much-needed employment opportunities as pole-and-line fishing is more labour-intensive than large-scale industrial fishing.

The Foundation expects that the demand for pole-and-line tuna will continue to grow and will mainly come from the UK, The Netherlands, Germany, France, Switzerland, Austria, Nordic countries and increasingly Australia, New Zealand, Japan and North America, where retailers are progressively switching their seafood procurement to more sustainable alternatives.

Notes to Editors


  1. The report, Ensuring Sustainability of Livebait Fish, can be downloaded from the University of York’s Environment department website at or from the IPNLF website at www.ipnlf.orgHard copies are available on request from IPNLF.
  2. Pole-and-line fishing is a simple approach to catching tuna with a hooked line attached to a pole. On locating a school of tuna, pole-and-line vessels scatter live bait into the sea in a process known as “chumming”. This creates the illusion of a large school of small fish near the surface, sending the tuna into such a feeding frenzy that they will bite at any shiny, moving object in the water, even un-baited hooks. The annual global catch of pole-and-line tuna is around 457,000 tonnes, or around 10 percent of the world total.
  3. The International Pole and Line Foundation (IPNLF) works to help develop sustainable and equitable pole-and-line fisheries and to increase the market share of sustainably and equitably caught pole-and-line tuna. The Foundation, which was launched in April 2012, is officially registered in the UK and has a branch office in the Maldives. Starting with Indonesia in 2013, the IPNLF will set up country branches wherever it is operating to offer local knowledge, expertise and a go-to desk for support with development. The IPNLF is a hub for likeminded people and commercial operations that want to support the sustainable and equitable development of pole-and-line tuna. Membership is open to everyone from individual fisheries to communities and markets.
  4. The commercial benefit for brands and retailers to support IPNLF and pole-and-line fishing is that they will be able to better manage their brand security and development by gaining access to these sustainable tuna resources. IPNLF will help these commercial stakeholders work together with fishing communities on establishing a product that meets their consumer requirements as well as their own seafood category growth expectations. And the benefit for environmentally-informed end-consumer is that they will be given the choice to buy safe, sustainable products that contribute to improving the health of marine ecosystems as well as the livelihoods of struggling fishing communities.
  5. The Environment Department at the University of York conducts world-leading research on topics of global environmental importance. The impact of its research in ecology and environmental science is ranked by the Times Higher Education as 2nd in the UK and 17th in the world. Its research is highly interdisciplinary across the natural and social sciences, ranging from atmospheric chemistry to environmental economics and policy analysis. Its funding comes from numerous sources, including research councils, national and international government agencies, charities and industry. More information at:
  6. The images supplied are for use with this press release only and are not for archiving, reuse in another context or for distribution to third parties. They should always be credited as: ©Paul Hilton/Greenpeace
  7. Representatives from the IPNLF will be at the INFOFISH World Tuna Trade & Conference in Bangkok, Thailand, 23-25 May. For more information email:

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