Media Release from the New Zealand Sport Fishing Council
Plunder of the Pacific
Over 3 million tonnes of tuna are caught in the Pacific Ocean each year. An ever increasing amount is caught by purse seine vessels in the western and central Pacific.
The Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC), which New Zealand is party to, has tried but so far failed to limit expansion in this fishery.
Sharks, turtles, mahimahi and marlin are some of the non-target species being caught by purse seine nets set around fish aggregation devices (FADs), and the NZ Sport Fishing Council is concerned that this high bycatch rate is unsustainable and avoidable.
Also ensnared by these huge nets are juvenile yellowfin and bigeye tuna, species that have already declined worryingly. The impact of this bycatch is felt not just in the tropical Pacific, but throughout the range of these highly migratory species - including New Zealand waters.
New Zealand’s own tuna fishers are threatened. The Bay of Plenty was home to the best tuna sport fishery in the country in the 1990s. Several thousand yellowfin were caught in a good year and the Whakatane Tuna Tournament drew hopeful anglers from far and wide.
The heart has been ripped out of the yellowfin tuna fishery in New Zealand with only a handful of fish caught in the Bay of Plenty over the last six years. It is getting worse not better, with not a single yellowfin caught in the Whakatane tournament in the last two years.
Figure1. National catch of yellowfin tuna and striped marlin recorded by 57 clubs affiliated to the NZ Sport Fishing Council by fishing season.
NZ Sport Fishing Council President Richard Baker is deeply concerned about the situation. "As recreational fishers we're often the first to be affected when stocks start to decline. We have been sounding the alarm on yellowfin for a few years now - but to turn things around that alarm needs to heeded. The writing is on the wall when one of largest sportfishing tournaments in country has to be renamed after tuna have disappeared from the catch"
The tenfold increase in tuna catch in the western and central Pacific and continued expansion of purse seining is just not sustainable (see the Fact Sheet attached). The effect on by-catch species and juvenile yellowfin and bigeye tuna can be equally devastating. It’s nothing short of plunder.
The power of the consumer can be used to ensure more sustainable fishing practices are used in the tuna fishery. It has worked before with demand for dolphin free catching methods changing the way purse seine vessels operated. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dolphin_safe_label
"The New Zealand Sport Fishing Council stands beside Greenpeace in their ‘Change your tuna’ campaign. We urge those companies, like Sealord, selling canned tuna in New Zealand to ensure that they use only truly sustainable fish and stop selling tuna that has been caught by seiners using FADs," said Richard Baker.
President, New Zealand Sport Fishing Council
021 869 889
In the Western and Central Pacific Ocean the provisional 2009 purse-seine tuna catch of 1,894,500 metric tonnes (mt) was the sixth consecutive record catch for this fishery and 70,000 mt higher than the previous record in 2008. The 2009 pole-and-line catch (165,814 mt) was the lowest annual catch for this fishery since the mid-1960s (Figure 1).
The Western and Central Pacific Ocean tuna catch (2,467,903 mt) for 2009 represented 81% of the total Pacific Ocean catch of 3,042,092 mt, and 58% of the global tuna catch (the provisional estimate for 2009 is 4,222,289 mt). Source: Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission, Scientific Committee Summary Report 2010.
Figure 2: Catch (mt) of albacore, bigeye, skipjack and yellowfin in the western and central Pacific Ocean, by longline, pole-and-line, purse seine and other gear types, 1960 to 2009.
New Zealand Catch
The New Zealand Sport Fishing Council collects annual catch tallies of all fished weighed and tagged and released by about 30,000 members of 57 affiliated clubs around the country.
In the mid-1990s over 2200 yellowfin per season were recorded by clubs, 12 years later there where 69 (Figure 1). Tallies for the 2010-11 season are not finalised but they are looking equally poor.
Last season under 6 mt of the New Zealand quota of 263 mt was caught by commercial fishers. In the first seven months of the relatively warm 2010-11 season commercial fishers have landed less than 3 mt. Yellowfin are not arriving in New Zealand over summer the way they used to. It is not high catches in New Zealand waters that has caused this.