Seafood market players New England Seafood International and Fish Tales are calling on decision makers to strengthen the management of Pacific Ocean tuna fisheries. Both companies are Members of the International Pole & Line Foundation (IPNLF) and are urging Members of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) to conserve the region’s multi-billion dollar tuna fisheries and protect the coastal communities reliant upon them. The Commission is meeting this week in Fiji, and the body is facing mounting pressure to address overfishing of key stocks, particularly bigeye and bluefin tuna which have been reduced to 84% and 2.6% of unfished levels, respectively.
The Pacific Ocean is home to some of the world’s most abundant populations of tuna, including albacore, skipjack and yellowfin as well as to billfish species such as marlin and swordfish, while the area covered by the WCPFC amounts to almost 20% of the Earth’s surface.
IPNLF recognises that the WCPFC has made some progress in recent years to establish science-based management measures to ensure the sustainability of some tuna stocks, but significant challenges remain.
“News of ever-increasing fishing pressure and projections of the health of some stocks, like south Pacific albacore, are worrying. We are hopeful that WCPFC will take action this week by adopting precautionary harvest strategies and a plan to end overfishing of key stocks. More precautionary management approaches will benefit all in the long run, bring positive returns to fishing communities, and minimise the risk of future fisheries collapse,” says Adam Baske, Director of Policy & Outreach at IPNLF.
With two days of negotiations remaining, it is still not known if WCPFC will be able to advance the key challenges on the table. However, many retailers, suppliers, fishing associations and NGOs are encouraging Member countries to act responsibly as custodians of these vitally important marine resources. IPNLF’s call for decisive action from WCPFC is supported by its supply chain Members, including New England Seafood International and Fish Tales, who recognise that the sustainability of tuna stocks is integral to their businesses as well as the health of the marine environment.
Cassie Leisk of New England Seafood International says, “Sustainability is the heartbeat of our business, and we are committed to sourcing from responsibly managed fisheries that sustain ecosystems and the livelihoods dependent upon them. International cooperation is pivotal to the success of the WCPFC and this week we encourage members to take the necessary steps to adopt precautionary measures whilst harvest strategies are developed for all major tuna stocks. The urgency for progress has never been greater.”
Harm Jan van Dijk of Fish Tales says, “Countless fisheries around the world do an amazing job, including many in the western Pacific. This year, we encourage the WCPFC to focus on tried and tested approaches to fisheries management by not catching fish beyond healthy limits for the stocks. This will contribute to a sustainable future for the ocean and fishing communities.”