US western Pacific council to discuss crab, bigeye tuna stocks

By Undercurrent News 

The US Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council (WPRFMC) will meet next week to discuss setting allowable biological catch (ABC) limits for Kona crab in Hawaii as well as bigeye tuna catch limits for longliners.

According to a release from the council ahead of its three-day meeting in Honolulu, which begins June 22, members of its scientific and statistical committee (SSC) will hear reports in order to help them make recommendations on the ABC for Kona crab. A recently produced stock assessment on the species gives catch projections until 2026 and will help the committee recommend the ABC for the 2020 to 2023 period.

The committee will also consider recommendations for catch limits in for longline bigeye tuna for US territories. The regional Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission limited US longline bigeye catch to 3,554 metric tons annually in 2019 and 2020 but the US National Marine Fisheries Service has the authority to set limits for the individual territories. The council's SSC will make recommendations on those limits. 

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High tuna catches cause bottlenecks, market pressure in Pacific

By Neil Ramsden

High levels of tuna catches in the western, central, and eastern regions of the Pacific Ocean in May and June have led to supply bottlenecks and a tricky time for the logistics chain, according to an internal memo from the World Tuna Purse Seine Organisation (WTPO).

The note, seen by Undercurrent News, notes "above average" catching "from May this year to the first week of June 2019". Over the same period, Atlantic catches have been average and Indian Ocean landings poor, it said.

At the end of May Undercurrent reported skipjack tuna prices in key processing hubs such as Thailand and Ecuador were expected to weaken in June, signaling the downtrend started in May might continue into the summer months.

Higher Chinese offering in key markets and lower demand in the Middle East were mentioned as the key bearish drivers, while some sources in Ecuador pointed out that price instability is hindering commissioning of new fishing vessels in Latin America.

High catch levels in May have seen a lack of carrier space at sea in the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) region, as well as a lack of cold storage space in ports, resulting in slow unloading and turnaround of reefer carriers, said WTPO.

"Purse seine vessels have been forced to stay in port for 10 to 12 days longer than usual, while we have reports that some... have stayed in port for more than two weeks."

This has seen most purse seine vessel owners -- as well as traders -- in the WCPFC suffer from demurrage charges "imposed by refrigerated carrier companies, in addition to high fishing access fees".

"This further aggravates the overall economic viability of the fishing vessel operator/company," said the WTPO secretariat.

It said there was a consensus from most member companies in the western and central Pacific Ocean (WCPO), Indian Ocean, and Atlantic Ocean, to voluntarily call some vessels back to their home ports for early drydocking and maintenance work, plus vessels which are also scheduled to leave port have been ordered to stay in port due to the unfavorable conditions at the fishing grounds. The WTPO encouraged others to do the same.

"We analyze that the situation will stabilize soon given the upcoming ban on [fish aggregating devices] in the WCPO by July 1, which will result in a 30% reduction in production based on past three years data." A complete fishing ban in the eastern Pacific is also due for July 29 to Oct. 8, a source further told Undercurrent.

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US NGO works as high seas sleuth to track illegal fishing

WASHINGTON: From her desk in a building in downtown Washington, Lacey Malarky monitors fishing vessels that take advantage of the vastness of Earth’s oceans to cheat in the belief that no one is watching. 

Malarky uses a website called Global Fishing Watch, which was launched by her employer, the NGO Oceana, with Google and a non-profit called SkyTruth less than three years ago to trace where 70,000 fishing vessels have sailed since 2012. 

The site analyses the GPS signals emitted by these ships and plots them on a map to help people such as Malarky to determine if they have gone into a protected region, or are in fact working in an area that corresponds to the species of fish they say they are looking for. 

Using artificial intelligence, Global Fishing Watch can even tell what kind of fishing technique a vessel is engaged in: trawling (a net that drags along the seabed); longlining (a line with baited hooks spaced at intervals) or purse seine fishing (using a net that hangs vertically and surrounds a school of fish). 

Each method has its own its pace and trajectory and targets specific species.


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U.S. House passes Herrera Beutler bill on ocean acidification

By Calley Hair, Columbian staff writer

A bill that would allow institutions researching ocean acidification to compete for $50 million annually in federal prize money passed the U.S. House of Representatives after being introduced by Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Battle Ground, earlier this year.

The Ocean Acidification Innovation Act, or H.R. 1921, coasted to victory Wednesday morning with 395 “yay” votes to 22 “nays.” Its next stop is the Senate, where the bipartisan legislation is expected pass.

Under the bill, federal agencies would be able to use existing funds to conduct prize contests — awarding competitors who find better ways to research, monitor and manage ocean acidification.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration would free up $30.5 million per year through 2024 for the prize money, according to the bill’s text. The National Science Foundation would supply an additional $20 million per year.

Prize money is a carrot commonly dangled by the federal government to boost research and investment into environmental science. Last year, for instance, the U.S. Department of Energy launched a $3 million series of prize contests for entrepreneurs developing new solar technology.

Herrera Beutler represents Washington’s 3rd Congressional District, which stretches to the West Coast and includes a vast fishing and shellfishing community in Pacific County.

“Shellfish and fishing industry jobs in Pacific County are jeopardized by the detrimental effects of ocean acidification,” Herrera Beutler said in a media release.

About a quarter of the country’s oysters are harvested in Southwest Washington. In 2010, the Washington Shellfish Initiative estimated the regional industry provided 2,700 jobs and $184 million.

As the ocean absorbs more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, the water’s pH level drops and it becomes more corrosive. That can spell disaster for coral reefs, which in a sensitive ocean ecosystem affects the entire marine food chain.

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Canadian fresh tuna exporter moves into frozen from Sri Lanka, Guinea supply

By Jason Smith

BRUSSELS, Belgium -- Prior to the recent Brussels seafood show, Montreal, Canada's Ferro Import Export had been focused on selling fresh tuna supplied from artisanal fishermen in Guinea and Sri Lanka.

While that will remain the mainstay of the business, the supplier's CEO, Ibrahim Ferrer, told Undercurrent News that based on some of the preliminary conversations he and his employees had with potential partners and customers in Brussels, the company is considering expanding its presence in Europe as well. 

“It was a fantastic show. We need to reconsider the whole strategy and revisit our thinking,” he said.

The trader, which began four years ago selling canned fish, pivoted to Sri Lanka and later Guinea in West Africa when it saw opportunities to supply better quality fresh tuna from small-scale fishermen using traditional fishing methods.

“It was difficult to find fresh products with quality,” Jorge Hans, the company's regional manager for the US, said.

The company, which also has offices in Miami and does its own primary processing in its sourcing countries, has been selling fresh tuna, as well as other species such as grouper, into Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver in Canada as well as Miami and New York in the US.

“We wish to go to Seattle, California,” Hans said.

Ferro is also planning to broaden into frozen tuna exports as a way of giving the communities they work with a chance to sell more fish, Hans said. 

He said that adding frozen product will allow the company to offer more stable work to its fishermen as it will allow Ferro to take on higher volumes.

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Europeche: Fishing poses no threat to long-term preservation of marine resources

By Undercurrent News June 6, 2019 09:42 BST

“European fishing body Europeche has said that while the industry can pose a potential risk to the marine environment, with proper fisheries management and industry-led efforts, fish stocks are increasing.

This came in response to the new report from the UN expert group on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), which found ecosystems are declining globally at rates unprecedented in human history, with many species facing extinction at accelerating rates.

According to the report, the oceans are no exception to this trend caused by changes in sea use, direct exploitation of organisms, climate change, pollution, and invasive alien species. 

Proof that fishing need not be detrimental to the environment comes as "thanks to fisheries management and industry-led efforts, fish stocks have been generally increasing in many areas such as the North East Atlantic, currently reaching levels 36% higher than in 2003".

"This positive trend shows that UN’s extinction warning, particularly for fish populations, is a bit far-fetched."

UN expert authors highlighted that about 66% of the marine environment has been significantly altered by human actions, and claimed that 55% of the ocean is covered by industrial fishing. The report also states that, in 2015, 33% of marine fish stocks were being harvested at unsustainable levels.
According to Europeche, the report strongly overestimates fisheries' impact on global biodiversity in the oceans.

"The sector recalls that fish know no borders. Fishermen need to ‘chase’ highly mobile marine species across the oceans to provide healthy food to consumers. However, this does not mean that EU operators fish everywhere."

Thanks to recent high-resolution data of fishing activities, the footprint of fishing worldwide is revealed to be less than 4%, and not 55%, it said.

Europeche acknowledged that further efforts were needed towards achieving the global goal to have all commercial fish stocks exploited at sustainable levels. "However, it is to be noted that the majority of global fisheries (67%) are currently sustainable."

It also said a large number of fish come from sustainable populations; about 82% of the fish consumed worldwide is sustainably caught, 86% in the case of tuna. As for Europe, almost 100% of the landings from Atlantic stocks managed by the EU come from catches responsibly fished in line with the maximum sustainable yield policy, it added.”

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Thai Union Strikes it Rich with Tuna Oil

business May 21, 2019 01:00


When Tunyawat Kasemsuwan, the director of Global Innovation Centre (GIC), joined Thai Union Group five years ago, he saw a lot of “value” left unused at the firm’s tuna processing factory, and decided to take on the responsibility of finding ways to tap that value.

Tunyawat later led the centre to research and develop ways to cash in on this abandoned value, and finally proposed that the company produce refined tuna oil as a new business. 

And now, the long journey of extracting value from the remains of tuna-fish has reached its destination. Crude fish oil extracted in Samut Sakhon province is being shipped to Germany, where Thai Union’s new marine oil refinery is purifying the oil to be sold in the market. 

Five months after the seafood giant’s “Thai Union Marine Nutrients” oil refinery in Rostock, Germany, began operations late last year, they have so far sold 250 tonnes of refined tuna oil to one of the world’s top five infant formula manufacturers.

In the past, the company had treated tuna fish heads as a waste and normally sold it as animal feed at Bt6 per kilo, but after being transformed into refined oil through state-of-the-art technology it has become a value-added product, Tunyawat said.

“And it could increase its value a 100 times if it were developed to the highest level for use as an ingredient in pharmaceutical products,” the director said, during a recent visit to the refinery by a group of Thai journalists.

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Study: Climate change will redistribute tuna populations

By Undercurrent News

More skipjack and yellowfin tuna will move to the tropical waters, while albacore, Atlantic bluefin, bigeye and southern bluefin will shift into colder seas in the future, according to research led by AZTI, a Spanish research body. 

If a coastal country's local fleet anticipates the changes in abundance and distribution of the target species, it may adapt its fishing gear or change its target species, said Haritz Arrizabalaga, who carried out the study with Maite Erauskin-Extramiana.

"Knowing in advance what will happen in the future enables adaptation strategies to the transformations to be drawn up. [A coastal country's local fleet] may be able to continue fishing the same species, but investing in larger vessels, capable of going out further in search of these species," said Arrizabalaga.

The researchers took into account the effect of the environmental conditions on the worldwide distribution of tuna species, such as albacore, Atlantic bluefin, southern bluefin, tropical bigeye, skipjack and yellowfin between 1958 and 2004. This enables the influence of climate change in the future to be assessed and specific predictions to be made, they claim. The study has been published Global Change Biology

"During the historical period analyzed, the habitat distribution limits of the tuna have moved towards the poles at a rate of 6.5 kilometers per decade in the northern hemisphere and 5.5km per decade in the southern one. Based on the influence of climate change, even strong changes in tuna distribution and abundance are expected in the future, particularly at the end of the century (2088 - 2099)," said Arrizabalaga.

More specifically, the study forecasts that temperate tuna species, such as albacore, Atlantic bluefin and southern bluefin, will move towards the poles. Bigeye tuna will reduce its presence in the tropics and will move to warmer areas. On the other hand, the analysis predicts that the main two canned tuna species -- skipjack and yellowfin -- will become more abundant in the tropical areas, as well as in most of the fishing areas of coastal countries, or in other words, in the maritime economic exclusive zones which stretches from their coastline to a distance of 200 nautical miles.

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Tuna Fishermen Say Agencies Rejected Input on New Rules

ERIKA WILLIAMS Courthouse News Service

(CN) – Representing large net-fishing vessels in the Pacific Ocean, the American Tunaboat Association filed a lawsuit Wednesday claiming government fishery regulators left industry experts in the dark about a forthcoming biological opinion that could limit commercial tuna operations.

The complaint, filed by Baker Botts attorney Megan Berge in Washington, D.C., federal court, names as defendants Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association and the National Marine Fisheries Service, or NMFS. 

According to the lawsuit, NMFS is preparing a biological opinion that could impose new permit requirements and limits on tuna fishery operations in the western and central Pacific Ocean, and the American Tunaboat Association says it was denied the ability to provide input during an informal phase of the assessment process.

The fishing advocacy group claims the NMFS violated the Administrative Procedure Act by not allowing it to review any drafts or provide first-hand, expert recommendations for the developing opinion that could directly impact its members.

Biological opinions are approved by government agencies under the Endangered Species Act and can be used to set limits on the number of protected species “taken,” or harvested, by fishing vessels. This limit and the permit process required for some exceptions especially impacts members of the American Tunaboat Association, who use a purse seine method of fishing skipjack and other tuna species in the western and central Pacific Ocean.

Purse seine fishing is the controversial practice of deploying a large wall of netting that encircles a school of fish, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association. This method has been known to entangle unlucky species that may be endangered or threatened.

Multiple protected species reside in the western and central Pacific Ocean, including loggerhead sea turtles and Hector’s dolphins.

There are currently about 31 vessels participating in the fishery operation, over half of which are certified as sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council, the complaint says. All of these ships and skippers need to comply with NMFS regulations to participate in the fishery.

The American Tunaboat Association says it discovered that NMFS consultation for the new biological opinion was well underway only after its members participated in a webinar series last September.

The new opinion would entirely replace current regulations that were set in 2006, the group says in the complaint, causing uncertainty for its members.

The association claims its application to get involved in the consultation for the biological opinion was rejected.

“Profit margins can be, and often are, razor thin for some ATA-member vessels. For these members especially but also for all other ATA members, the findings, conclusions and measures NMFS will adopt in its new BiOp are of utmost importance,” the complaint states. “ATA and its members are thus insisting that NMFS affords them their due applicant status and rights to ensure that the agency appropriately considers industry expertise and produces a legally defensible BiOp.”

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