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Addressing Excess Capacity in Tuna Purse Seine Fisheries

Contact: Erin Grandstaff erin@vennsq.com
Charlie Patterson charlie@vennsq.com
+1 202-466-4437

Conservation group to work with industry to discourage adding new vessels

8 June 2012 – The International Seafood Sustainability Foundation (ISSF) Board of Directors has adopted a conservation measure aimed at beginning to address excess fishing by the global large-scale tropical tuna purse seine fleets. The measure calls for direct action by industry following scientific-based studies to address harmful excessive capacity by preventing additional new vessels from being introduced into the already over-crowded tuna fisheries unless replacing older existing vessels.

New, larger and more efficient vessels keep being built, proliferating excessive fishing capacity much faster than it shrinks through scrapping or sinking old vessels. A scientific report published online by ISSF notes that the world’s purse seiners are responsible for about 2.8 million tons of the more than 4 million tons of tuna caught each year. That’s 65% of the global catch. According to data provided in A Snapshot of the Tropical Tuna Purse Seine Large-Scale Fishing Fleets the fishing capacity of all authorized purse seine vessels is close to 640,000 tons. If every vessel made five or more fishing trips at maximum capacity each year, the global catch would easily exceed the current level.

According to the ISSF Resolution to Manage Fishing Capacity by the Tropical Tuna Purse Seine Fleets, by January 1, 2013:

– All processors, traders, importers, transporters and others involved in the seafood industry must refrain from transactions in skipjack, bigeye and yellowfin tuna caught by large scale purse seine vessels that are not actively fishing for tuna December 31, 2012, except for those vessels under contract for construction on or before December 31, 2012 with construction completed by June 30, 2015, or in cases where there is a change in the name, flag, or registration number of a vessel. The addition of a new large-scale purse seine vessel that is built as a replacement for a vessel already on the Record that has sunk, has been scrapped or otherwise permanently transferred out of the tropical tuna fishery is also permitted.

– ISSF will establish a Record of large-scale purse seine vessels fishing for tropical tunas globally.  The Record, will be made publicly available and will draw upon the information available in the tuna RFMO vessel registers, as well as information provided by the fishing industry.

– Considering that increased participation by coastal states in large-scale purse seine tuna fisheries can be accommodated through commensurate reductions by the other participants, ISSF will continue to sponsor regional and global workshops on fleet capacity management, including mechanisms for capacity transfers.

To see the full list of provisions please click here.

“Experts in fisheries management, economics and international law agree that fishing overcapacity leads to overexploitation and wastes resources. The first step in managing excessive fishing capacity is to stop adding boats,” said Susan Jackson, President of ISSF. “There is a need for nations to reduce demand for more vessels, especially in large-scale purse seine fleets that have been growing rapidly.”

In 2010 the Bellagio Conference on Sustainable Tuna Fisheries was held to offer scientific, fishery and government experts an opportunity to develop an analysis of key issues that are vital for the management of tuna fisheries. The resulting Bellagio Framework for Sustainable Tuna Fisheries noted, “Urgent action is required. Simply put, the global growth in fishing capacity must be curtailed and fleets reduced. The time is ripe to address these problems and their root causes. Success will require the use of new approaches including rights-based management.” It continues, “The first step towards controlling capacity is to establish limited entry, as might be set up via a closed vessel registry, after which reductions in the number of vessels can be negotiated.”

Many necessary steps have already been taken to begin monitoring fishing capacity and shifting tuna fisheries toward rights-based management systems. The tuna RFMOs have created a Consolidated List of Authorized Vessels (CLAV), an effort to keep record of all vessels authorized to fish for tuna and the regions where they are authorized to fish. ISSF supports these efforts by working with industry to strictly support those vessels that obtain an IMO number, or an equivalent unique vessel identifier. These permanent numbers help to track vessels as they change flags, owners, gears or fishing regions.

Jackson added, “We will continue to work with Regional Fisheries Management Organizations and their member and cooperating non-member states to achieve the long-term conservation of highly migratory fish stocks and their ecosystems. Limiting the growth in capacity is a first step. Additional efforts will be needed in order to reduce capacity so that it is aligned with what tuna stocks can sustainably support.  Rights-based management is an effective way to address overcapacity, conservation and economic benefits.”

About the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation (ISSF)
The International Seafood Sustainability Foundation (ISSF) is a global coalition of scientists, the tuna industry and World Wildlife Fund (WWF), the world’s leading conservation organization, promoting science-based initiatives for the long-term conservation and sustainable use of tuna stocks, reducing bycatch and promoting ecosystem health. To learn more, visit their website at iss-foundation.org

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