After 5 years of persistent campaigning in the Pacific region by the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA), the United Nations General Assembly voted in December 2016 to officially observe World Tuna Day, beginning May 2, 2017. Word Tuna Day does not encourage eating more tuna, but rather draws attention to these valuable fish threatened by an overwhelming demand for their meat, mostly in the form of canned tuna and sushi. As we watch global tuna stocks in rapid decline, World Tuna Day confirms the world’s appreciation of tuna and the need for its protection to prevent world tuna stocks from crashing. (Image – Blackfin Tuna, (c) 1992 Diane Rome Peebles)
Among Pacific islands, and particularly PNA members that control the world’s largest sustainable skipjack tuna fishery, tuna is a primary source of revenue for governments and a key part of food security for island populations. PNA members are the Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Tuvalu. Their combined exclusive economic zones control 25 percent of the world’s supply of tuna. As major benefactors of tuna stocks, the PNA have created one of the most impressive examples of sustainable development in the Pacific.
PNA’s Sustainable Fishing Practices
The PNA’s move to a code of sustainable fishing practices is now applicable across all 14 Pacific island countries (not only the 8 PNA countries). Global leaders in tuna conservation and management, many PNA conservation measures are world firsts – such as high seas closures to fishing, controls on Fish Aggregating Devices (FADs), protection for whale sharks and observers being present on 100% of purse seine fishing vessels to insure sustainable practices. No dolphins are caught in PNA waters and the PNA is actively involved in limiting bycatch of other species.
The focus of PNA efforts to sustainably manage tuna is the Vessel Day Scheme (VDS). PNA members agree on a limited number of fishing days for the year, based on scientific advice about the status of the tuna stocks. Fishing days are then allocated by country and sold to the highest bidder. In this way, Pacific Islanders reap economic benefits from their sustainable management of tuna.
World’s Largest Sustainable Tuna Fishery
As a result of the above measures, the PNA has created the world’s largest tuna fishery using sustainable purse seine practices. Sustainably- caught fish certified by the Marine Stewardship Council increased from 6,896 tons to 59,586 tons in the first year, and in 2017 it anticipates 100,000 tons of sustainably caught skipjack tuna. Skipjack is the most common canned tuna and PNA controls around 50% of the global supply of skipjack. When skipjack is sold with a sustainability label it brings a higher price.
PNA is now turning to the issue of commercial long-line fishing, which is notorious for its high bycatch of sharks, turtles and billfish and the uncontrolled fishing on the high seas, just outside their territorial waters.
There are some 16 different species of tuna, including Atlantic Bluefin, Pacific Bluefin, Southern Bluefin, Bigeye, Yellowfin, Albacore and Skipjack. Pacific BlueFin is on the endangered list, but is still fished due to the high market price it fetches.
What you can do:
Check out the Monterey Bay Aquarium Sustainable Seafood Watch Guide and downloadable app to help you make wise choices in all your seafood purchases.
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