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Tuna bycatch a problem

Media Release from the New Zealand Sport Fishing Council

Tuna bycatch a problem

The western Pacific Ocean has experienced an unprecedented expansion in tuna fishing over the last 30 years.

Much of that increase has been in the purse seine catch of skipjack tuna around fish aggregation devices (FADs).

Clubs affiliated to the New Zealand Sport Fishing Council have seen a huge decline in the availability of yellowfin tuna in the last 10 years, particularly in the Bay of Plenty.

Last season the 57 affiliated clubs landed a total of 59 yellowfin (+28 tagged and released). Commercial fishers in New Zealand landed 6 tonnes against their 263 tonne quota.

While yellowfin stocks in the tropics are thought to be fished at sustainable levels, catches outside New Zealand waters appear to be having an impact here.

A major problem identified by the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission is the bycatch of juvenile yellowfin and bigeye tuna that school below the FADs used by purse seine vessels.

Just last week the scientific committee recommended a 32% reduction in bigeye tuna catch as the stock was over-fished.

Bigeye and yellowfin stocks would both benefit from a reduction in juvenile mortality they said. (Summary Report available at http://www.wcpfc.int/doc/summary-report-seventh-regular-session-scientific-committee-adopted-version-rev-1-24august2011 )

On-board independent observers have reported bycatch rates much higher than recorded in fisher logbooks (see fact sheet).

NZ Sport Fishing is also concerned about other species ensnared in these huge nets which includes sharks, mahi mahi, turtles and marlin.

These tuna fisheries operate far from land or in international waters and are very hard to monitor and police.

Greenpeace is doing a great job attracting attention to bycatch issues in these remote fisheries.

“NZ Sport Fishing want management measures that will reduce the bycatch of juvenile tuna and other species in the skipjack fishery” said Mark Connor. “Delegates at our recent AGM supported action to reduce purse seining on FADs and close pockets of international water in the western and central Pacific.”


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