Chinese Subsidies threaten survival of Western and Central Pacific Seafood Industry!


According to Michael Field, China is using vast subsidies to threaten the survivability of the fishing industry in the Western and Central Pacific – which includes New Zealand.

In an article in the Dominion Post, China threatens survival of fishing industry (published Tuesday 14 may 2013) Michael Field writes:

An international agency has warned that China is using vast subsidies to threaten the survivability of the fishing industry in the Western and Central Pacific – which includes New Zealand.

The alarm has been sounded in a briefing paper written for the 17-nation Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA), which says that unless something is done at a high level, non-Chinese fishing operations are in trouble.

The paper, presented at a meeting this week at the FFA headquarters in Honiara, Solomon Islands, said there is deep concern about growth in the Chinese fleet and the high level of subsidies Beijing gives its deepwater fishing boats.

It is the official Chinese government policy to assist in the growth, expansion and modernisation of its (deep water fleet) DWF fleets and to use subsidies and incentives to achieve this aim,” the paper said.

The extent and magnitude of the subsidies was significant and likely to provide the Chinese DWF with significant cost advantage over unsubsidised fleets.

Chinese spending on its fleet is growing with new tax incentives being introduced.

The subsidies make all other nations’ fleets economically unviable due to their cost disadvantage.

The Chinese are increasing catch levels and forcing down the allowable catch rates of other nations, the paper warned.

Without governmental intervention in this issue and broad and active affirmative support of (Pacific Island) governments, the prospect for the survival of domestic non Chinese flagged vessels in the (Western and Central Pacific) would be extremely challenging.”

It said China plans to increase its DWF to 2300 vessels by the end of 2015.

It has a large array of subsidies including tax breaks to fishing companies, direct subsidies on fish caught, fuel offsets and favourable loan rates. Even provincial governments in China pay the access fees Chinese boats have to pay to fish in the South Pacific.

Environment organisation Greenpeace says the subsidies threaten Pacific tuna boat operators in particular.

These subsidies fuel the plunder of South Pacific albacore and are now leading to localised depletions and declines in catch rates across the fishery, jeopardising the livelihoods of locally owned small-scale tuna boat operators in Pacific Island countries,” said Greenpeace Australia Pacific oceans campaigner, Duncan Williams.

China Asia Typhoon


Multiple Users: Can Fishing & Oil Drilling (and even Deep-sea Mining) co-exist?


A story in Atuna (12 April 2013) announces a study into the Great Australian Bight, and the interactions of multiple users and their effects one each other; in particular the effects of drilling on fishstocks.

This couldn’t be anymore timely. Globally this issue of multiple use has emerged as technology has developed and other users such as oil drillers  have begun to prospect marine areas that have been the domain of fisheries…

This is a real issue in New Zealand where there has been prospecting for oil, and and even deep sea phosphate mining occurring within or adjacent to productive fishing grounds.

In Australia Oil reserves coincide with southern bluefin tuna (Thunnus maccoyii) grounds…

Ac cording to Atuna:

The Australian southern bluefin tuna industry has welcomed new research into the Great Australian Bight [where] an AUS$ 20 million whole of ecosystem study has been announced that will look at the economic, environmental and social value of the Bight.

Oil giant BP is funding some of the research. 

Map of Australia, showing the Great Australian Bight.

Map of Australia, showing the Great Australian Bight.

The tuna industry has had concerns in the past about the company’s exploration for oil and gas in the area; but Brian Jeffriess, from the tuna industry, says this research is welcome.

Unless you understand the ecosystem, understand how each of the users of that ecosystem whether they be new ones like BP or older ones like ourselves, we need to be responsible and need to recognize that we each have mutual obligations to us and the South Australian community.”

So what is Down There and how does it coincide with Bluefin Tuna?

A GeoScience Australia press release (05 April 2010) Geoscience Australia identified three new deep water hydrocarbon provinces announces:

Three significant new oil and gas regions have been identified off Australia’s coast, raising the potential for a wave of offshore exploration that could create booming new resources hubs around the nation. A combination of new technology and the high price of oil has prompted the commonwealth’s Geoscience Australia survey body to push technical limits and explore frontier areas in deep water, turning up startling new resource potential.

Geoscience Australia has identified the Bight basin as a new deepwater hydrocarbon province.

One of the regions, the South Australian end of the Great Australian Bight, has been opened for exploration and has already attracted strong bids ahead of the April 29 deadline. But extracting any oil and gas from this area will mean overcoming significant challenges, including heavy seas and wells deeper than any in operation around the nation.

In addition to the Bight, Geoscience Australia has uncovered strong indications of petroleum in basins near the Lord Howe Rise, 800km east of Brisbane, and on the Wallaby Plateau, 500km off the West Australian coast and next to the existing North West Shelf gas zone.

Which could be good news for the Australian Economy… But what of existing use… Bluefin Tuna is good for the Australian Economy too!!

According to the Australian Government these two resources spatially coincide:

Southern bluefin tuna spawning ground and migration pattern within and out of Australian waters. The 200-mile Australian fishing zone is indicated by the solid line and the horizontal hatching indicates the composite distribution of the Australian surface fishery. The general distribution of Japanese longline fishing is inset. (Modified from Majkowski et al., 1988).

Southern bluefin tuna spawning ground and migration pattern within and out of Australian waters. The 200-mile Australian fishing zone is indicated by the solid line and the horizontal hatching indicates the composite distribution of the Australian surface fishery. (Modified from Majkowski et al., 1988).

According to the Australian Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Poulation and Communities:

[The] Adult Southern Bluefin Tuna in Australian waters, ranges widely from northern Western Australia (WA) to the southern region of the continent, including Tasmania, and to northern New South Wales, appearing in eastern Australian waters mainly during winter (Caton 1991; CCSBT 2009; Honda et al. 2010; NSW DPI FSC n.d.). Juveniles of one to two years of age inhabit inshore waters in WA and South Australia (Honda et al. 2010).

The Southern Bluefin Tuna is highly migratory, occurring globally in waters between 30–50° S, though the species is mainly found in the eastern Indian Ocean and in the south-west Pacific Ocean. There is a single known spawning ground between Java and northern WA (TSSC 2010aw).

Given What is happening in New Zealand with Chatham Rise Phosphate… I am going to keep up with how the Aussies deal with this overlap!

Tuna Tales: Yellowfin stocks look good in WCPO – Sealord aim to keep it this way


According to the article in Scoop (300 million+ Yellowfin tuna in Western Central Pacific); fisheries scientists find Yellowfin Tuna stocks are in good shape in the WCPO.

Science from the experts in the Western Pacific shows Yellowfin stocks in the area Sealord sources its tuna are at healthy levels.

According to Stu Yorston (General Manager of Marketing at Sealord), there is confusion about Sealord Yellowfin tuna which is not fished in New Zealand but from a healthy stock with more than 300,000,000 fish.

The fisheries data shows Yellowfin stocks are healthy – there are hundreds of millions of fish in the area. The experts are warning though, that there should not be increased fishing of this stock in this area. Sealord understands this. We have reduced the amount of Yellowfin tuna used in our products and around 84% of Sealord tuna is made from Skipjack, the region’s most abundant stock.”

Yorston adds:

So people who enjoy Yellowfin should continue to eat it – we are sourcing it carefully and working closely with the experts to understand any changes or concerns.”

Jumping yellowfin tuna. Photo by Bradford Martin

Jumping yellowfin tuna. Photo by Bradford Martin

As many of you may remember, Sealord has been the brunt of a lot of Greenpeace sensationalism.

This Greenpeace attention, unfortunately is primarily driven from the undeniable fact that Sealord are the only seafood company in New Zealand that is involved in the canning of tuna… for this they have become a target and a symbol of fisheries malpractice.

This could not be any further from actual reality… But hthen it is Greenpeace we are talking about here.

Sealord’s responsible and sustainable sourcing practices and policies

Over the years Sealord have initiated a number of formal commitments to adhere to both a sustainable and a responsible sourcing policy. They deserve our support.. because supporting responsible and sustainable sourcing helps set global best practice… doesn’t it?

The rationale [as I see it anyway] is this …

If companies that develop and implement responsible and sustainable sourcing  practices and policies, receive reward from the market in the way of product sales, ahead of other companies who have not introduced equivalent practices and policies… Those other companies, in order to attain sufficient market share will also have to institute those responsible and sustainable sourcing practices and policies. Eventually it will be the norm to source responsibly and sustainably – This is how best practice is set…

So rather then obliterating Sealord yellowfin tuna or any other other kinds of tuna from your shopping regimen, simply because Greenpeace has told you to, you should deliberately add it… and be vociferous – You are doing it because Sealord have undertaken to source responsibly.

Something Fishy (Source PR Watch)

Something Fishy (Source PR Watch)

Part of Sealord’s responsible sourcing approach is it’s commitment to reduce bycatch to no more than 1% of catch by 2015. Sealord is trialling FAD-free Yellowfin from July this year, as one of the ways of achieving this. When catch and by-catch information becomes available, it will select the best fishermen, and whether they use FADs or are FAD-free.

New Zealanders eat less than 0.5% of the world’s canned tuna, which is why Sealord works with groups such as the International Sustainable Seafood Foundation (ISSF) to increase its influence on this massive market.

According to Stu Yorston:

Being a member of the ISSF means we can punch above our weight and benefit from the combined influence of the world’s largest group of industry, environment groups and scientists.”

Sealord has also recently signed the WWF Tuna Conservation WWF Tuna Pledge.

Sealord also launched the first New Zealand tuna that has the MSC (Marine Stewardship Council) eco-label. For more information here please see my posts in this blog:

Stu Yorston succinctly sums up Sealord’s sustainable sourcing  approach:

Our commitment is to source tuna from the best fishermen in the world and we know we will have to continue making improvements. Sourcing overfished stocks is not the way our people operate.”

State of Yellowfin Stocks in the Western Central Pacific Ocean

According to the WCPFC Stock Assessment of Yellowfin Tuna In The Western And CentralPacific Ocean:


8. For the most plausible range of models, the fishing mortality based reference point Fcurrent /~FMSY is estimated to be 0.56 –0.90 and on that basis conclude that overfishing is not occurring. The corresponding biomass based reference points Bcurrent/~BMSY  and SBcurrent/~SBMSY  are estimated to be above 1.0 (1.25 – 1.60 and 1.34 – 1.83, respectively) and, therefore, the stock is not in an overfished state. The stock status indicators are sensitive to the assumed value of steepness for the stock-recruitment relationship. A value of steepness greater than the default value (0.95) yields a more optimistic stock status and estimates considerably higher potential yields from the stock. Conversely, for a lower (0.65) value of steepness, the stock is estimated to be approaching the MSY based fishing mortality and biomass thresholds.

9. The western equatorial region accounts for the most of the WCPO yellowfin catch. In previous assessments, there have been concerns that the stock status in this region (region 3) might differ from the stock status estimated for the entire WCPO. A comparison between the results from the WCPO models and a model encompassing only region 3 yielded very similar results, particularly with respect to stock status. Nonetheless, there appear to be differences in the biological characteristics of yellowfin tuna in this region that warrant further investigation.

10. The estimates of MSY for the principal model options (480,000 – 580,000 mt) are comparable to the recent level of (estimated) catch from the fishery (550,000 mt). Further, under equilibrium conditions, the predicted yield estimates (YFcurrent) are very close to the estimates of MSY indicating that current yields are at or above the long-term yields available from the stock. Further, while estimates of current fishing mortality are generally below FMSY, any increase in fishing mortality would most likely occur within region 3 — the region that accounts for most of the catch. This would further increase the levels of depletion that is occurring within that region.

The International Sustainable Seafood Foundation (ISSF) (Referred to in the Scoop article) summarised the stock assessment in the ISSF Stock Status Ratings Report (Status of the World Fisheries for Tuna (ISSF Technical Report 2012-04B | December, 2012))

The last yellowfin assessment was conducted in 2011 and reviewed by SC7. While the model was similarto the previous (2009) assessment, there were revisions to various data sets (e.g. longline CPUE indices, catch and size data, purse-seine catch and size data, and the modeling of the Indonesian and Philippines domestic fisheries).

 The results were generally more pessimistic than those from the previous assessment and indicated that (Figure WCPO-6):

      1. The yellowfin stock is not in an overfished state as spawning biomass is above the BMSY level (Bcurrent/BMSY = 1.47, range between 1.14 and 1.92).
      2. The ratio Fcurrent/FMSY is estimated to be 0.77 (range between 0.54 and 1.15), indicating that overfishing is not occurring.
      3. MSY is estimated to be 538,800 (range 432,000-645,000) tonnes.
      4. The optimistic estimate of overall stock status should be tempered by the patterns estimated at a sub-regional level. The western equatorial Pacific, from which most of the catches are taken, is at least fully exploited with no potential for a substantial increase in catches to be sustainable.
Figure WCPO-6. Temporal trend in the ratios Bcurrent/BMSY (x-axis) and Fcurrent/FMSY (y-axis) for yellowfin tuna in the WCPO, 1952-2010. The white dot represents the current (2006-2009) situation. Colors are taken from WCPFC reports and do not necessarily correspond to the colors used for ratings in the ISSF Stock Status Report (ISSF Stock Status Ratings Report (Status of the World Fisheries for Tuna (ISSF Technical Report 2012-04B | December, 2012))

Figure WCPO-6. Temporal trend in the ratios Bcurrent/BMSY (x-axis) and Fcurrent/FMSY (y-axis) for yellowfin tuna in the WCPO, 1952-2010. The white dot represents the current (2006-2009) situation. Colors are taken from WCPFC reports and do not necessarily correspond to the colors used for ratings in the ISSF Stock Status Report (ISSF Stock Status Ratings Report (Status of the World Fisheries for Tuna (ISSF Technical Report 2012-04B | December, 2012))

So as you can see… Sealord are ‘bang on’… Yellowfin in the WCPO are not only managed well, they are within management targets. 

Greenpeace: Saving tuna fisheries that don’t need saving?


I have been keeping up with the very public war between Greenpeace and Tuna of Tomorrow.

I mean look at this….

And this…

What are they warring over?

Favourable Public Perception is my answer…  

For a few years now Greenpeace have been actively campaigning against Tuna fishing globally, and recently have stepped up campaigns in the Pacific Ocean, with one recent one (which is one of the subjects of this Blog Post – called “Defending our Pacific“), and for  a number of years Tuna for Tomorrow have been actively against Greenpeace’s campaign against Tuna fishing on.

On the Tuna for Tomorrow website, this war with Greenpeace is characterised:

Tuna for Tomorrow is a campaign to combat misinformation about sustainable stocks of tuna fished by the America’s leading canned tuna brands. Radical environmental activists have for years distorted the true status of tuna stocks worldwide claiming overfishing of species that are not overfished in order to further their own goals.

According to a consensus of scientists, stocks of [tuna] are plentiful and being fished sustainably to ensure that future generations of families enjoy canned tuna too.

Unfortunately, despite all the scientifically driven data to the contrary, radical activists, like Greenpeace, are campaigning to save tuna that don’t need saving. Apparently motivated by their own budgeted obligations — which include a $32 million yacht and operating expenses running nearly $700,000 per day — we believe that Greenpeace has fabricated a crisis for fundraising purposes.

Among their tactics is a campaign to eliminate purse seine (or net) fishing that uses Fish Aggregating Devices (FADs); Greenpeace is compelling grocers to sell canned tuna from FAD-free sources or from pole and line fisheries. The presumed threat is a mobilized boycott and protest against retailers who don’t comply. Pole and line fishing, though fun for weekend anglers, is woefully inefficient when it comes to meeting the nutritional needs of a nation. Last year, Americans purchase 50 million cases of canned tuna. Pole and line could only supply 4 million cases worldwide.

If Greenpeace has its way, not only would canned tuna disappear from grocers’ shelves, the paltry supply that gets to market would cost a lot more. Aside from its great taste and all of its nutritional benefits, canned tuna is also affordable (at least for now). If supply shrinks and demand stays the same, millions of consumers will be denied — be it by choice or by cost.”

In addition to Tuna for Tomorrow’s media centred public relations campaign. Greenpeace have been running one of their own… Greenpeace’s anti-tuna campaign is arguable far more sophisticated, and far more successful…

Greenpeace’s Kangnam Style approach of a younger commited dynamic, attract a younger committed dynamic… something I imagine Tuna for Tomorrow will never be able to do.

I mean this video is current… and totally entertaining

Greenpeace, through their public relations machinery, have been able to publically portray their fighting of “the good fight.” One such example of Greenpeace’s ‘good fight’ were the recent 2012 Ocean Expeditions:

Yes I know…

These “expeditions” (9-week expedition through the Indian Ocean’s fishing grounds completed by the Rainbow Warrior; and a 3-week expedition in Pacific Commons Area 1 and the EEZ of Palau undertaken by the Esperanza) were seen as ‘fishing operations’ fact finding and IUU fishery spotting missions as far as Greenpeace were concerned… Yet from the Summary of Findings documents on the Greenpeace website… I deduce that they were little more than footage finding and fishing interruption expeditions…

Both expeditions assert that they documented fishing operations; you be the judge… Here are summaries of their findings [just click on the pictures for a copy of the PDF].

Greenpeace. Defending our pacific summary

Greenpeace. Indian Ocean

The mainstream media has swallowed the ‘good fight’ rhetoric hook, line and sinker.  They fully responsive to the Greenpeace PR machine… To the extent that public perceptions are shaped that much more with programmes produced by the eNGO or its partners being guaranteed the requisite airtime… to cement understanding of an issue from their point of view… This may not seem much… but public airtime is gold.

TVNZ aired Karli Thomas and The Raiders of The Last Tuna on 04 Dec 12 on TV ONE. As you can see it is still available on demand.

This video before features Karli Thomas (Greenpeace Ocean Campaigner), talking about her embarkation on her Defending the Pacific 2011 expedition.

Below is the summary of findings document – produced by Karli’s expedition….

Greenpeace. Defending our pacific

The findings include slaps on the hands for Taiwanese long liners and the use of FADs by purse seiners. Simply put there is nothing new in any of these documents. But that is their appeal; their brand strategy… A brand strategy of constant messaging, delivered with a media savvy that is the envy of any public relations organisation…

However the question remains are their messages true and accurate? Well that is the question. The answer according to Tuna for Tomorrow… NO! 

What is my view?… Well I think Greenpeace don’t allow themselves to be too troubled by truth and accuracy.


Catching those Tuna: The challenges of purse seine versus longline tuna fishing


Today I was reading an older but still relevant highly relevant editorial in FIS news that got me thinking about the two major tuna fishing methods: tuna long lining and tuna purse seining in a totally different way.

The editorial article the challenges of purse seine versus longline tuna fishing (FIS 10 May 2012) looks at the differences between the two methods from the point of view of product destination.

This is a novel approach, as in my experience, the distinction is usually made (by eNGOs) with reference to performance of the gear type against the marine environment by highlighting by-catch rates and species types likely to be caught in addition to the target tuna species. For example contrast between the two gear types has often be demonstrated by captures of dolphins in purse seines or captures of turtles on longlines. Recently this contrast has been clouded with the plight of pelagic sharks being the new causes célèbre by global  eNGOs, and sharks feature in all harvest methods to varying degrees.

The article demonstrates the importance of both major methods (longlining and purse seining); not only because they target completely different fish, but because they have different socio-economic functions. This approach contrasts heavily with the eNGO ‘effects of the fishing gear’ approach which concentrates almost exclusively on the negative aspects of long line and purse seine gear deployment. A target based approach (as used this article) has a direct application to managing the sustainability of the target species.

The article separates the market:

“The tuna industry can be split into a sub-industry of high-priced fresh fish market (particularly of sashimi) mostly supported by longliners and one of low-priced canned tuna mainly supplied by purse seiners.”

“As the demand for canned tuna has been expanding very rapidly, the purse seine fleet has also expanded rapidly, according to Dr Peter Miyake of the Organisation for the Promotion of Responsible Tuna Fisheries (OPRT)”.

Dr Peter Miyake is a leading tuna researcher who has worked for many international tuna fisheries management groups, including the Inter American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC) and the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT). He now participates in the scientific meetings as a visiting researcher at National Research Institute of Far Seas Fisheries of Japan.

Miyake explains that purse seine fishing is is the most economic fishing method; arguing that the deployment of the fish aggregating devices (FAD) saves considerable fuel.

“But if companies were to catch all tuna only using purse seiners, the total catch which can be sustainable would be much lower, and without a longline fishery, there would be no tuna available for sashimi consumption and the reduction in total economic yield would be considerable”.

An important difference between the two harvest methods can be seen in the composition of the catch.

“Purse seiners catch abundant relatively inexpensive young small-sized tuna, while longliners catch much less of very high-quality expensive large-sized fish.”

Miyake points out that:

“A cohort [statistician speak for fish that are from the same place and same year] of tuna gains mass until a certain size/age and thereafter mass will decline (i.e. natural mortality loss is greater than growth gain). This critical point is about 40 kg in yellowfin tuna and 70 kg in bigeye tuna, which correspond to captures by longliners.”

“Therefore, the total weight of fish which can be sustainably harvested by purse seiners alone would be much less than those caught only by longliners. In fact, the current maximum sustainable yield (MSY) of bigeye tuna taken by longline and a greater number of purse seine fisheries in the Pacific Ocean has been almost halved compared to the level 20 years ago when bigeye tuna were caught by longline alone.”

TUNA CATCH IN METRIC TONNES IN THE WCPO.Tuna have been caught for centuries in the Pacific Islands.  This was usually from canoes and often using handlines, troll gear, or pearl shell lures. Starting in the early 1900s larger scale tuna fishing gear was introduced into the region. Today four types of gear produces the vast majority of the tuna catch in the Pacific Islands region:  purse seine, longline, pole-and-line and trolling (see

Tuna have been caught for centuries in the Pacific Islands. This was usually from canoes and often using handlines, troll gear, or pearl shell lures. Starting in the early 1900s larger scale tuna fishing gear was introduced into the region. Today four types of gear produces the vast majority of the tuna catch in the Pacific Islands region: purse seine, longline, pole-and-line and trolling (see

Miyake points that harvesting tunas (e.g. big eye, yellowfin and skipjack) by longline alone would more than likely increase their maximum sustainable yield (MSY) [MSY is the sustainable yield of natural capital that can be extracted without reducing the base of the natural capital itself]. But that such a measure would have profound socio-economic effects on the tuna canning industry.

As you know I am a huge advocate of the venn diagrammatic (Rio 20+) definition of sustainability [where sustainable use is based on three equally considered environmental, economic and social components]. Where it follows that any sustainability decision based on one component at the expense of the others is destined to fail.

Therefore the social impact of such a sustainability decision would potentially devastate the global canning industry due to the severe shortage in tuna and an exaggerated price of the line court fish that are available. This state of affairs would undoubtedly have an economic response. The exaggerated prices and shortage of canning quality fish would initiate a boom, which would result in a speedy substantial increase in longline vessel capacity.

Big Eye PNA

Bigeye tuna (Thunnus obesus). Source: Big Tuna Business Interests Clash With PNA Goals (see

This is happening now. 

The Taiwanese are exploiting the lacuna in the market created by the market’s disdain for large mechanical longline vessels and the use of FADs  by purse seiners [in addition to the market’s better treatment of fresh sashimi species] and are deploying thousands of small highly mobile vessels, that with snap freezing ability, and by virtue of the american longline technology they use, are able to land catches of up to 120+ t per annum.

In an article in published in the SPC Fisheries Newsletter (January/April 2012 #137) ‘OPRT study echoes PITIA concerns over rapid increase in small tuna longliners’. This article provides the results of a study by Japan’s National Resource Institute of Far Seas Fisheries which were presented at OPRT’s fourth annual seminar in Tokyo on 10 February 2012 by Jiro Suzuki. Suzuki argues that the real status of the small-scale longline fishing industry is currently not well understood by regional fisheries management organisations. Suzuki estimated that:

“Up to 5,400 small longline vessels could be operating globally, with 1,800 of these operating within the waters of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission. An additional 50–60 Taiwanese small longline vessels with onboard super-refrigeration status are reportedly currently under construction in Taiwan.”

Furthermore and more sobering, according to Mr Suzuki, is the impact of the burgeoning of small-scale longline vessels raises concerns about the sustainability of bigeye and yellowfin stocks [and as I have heard from New Zealand sources skipjack stocks as well].

Suzuki maintains that the sudden increase in Taiwanese small, mobile long line capacity stems from:

  • The exploitation ‘indigenous aspirational development’ clauses within WCPFC agreements. With the use of economic aid, Taiwan is able to secure the accommodation of additional fishing in various Pacific Island countries (PICs), in conjunction with the PICs growing drive to develop their tuna fishing industries;
  • Former Taiwanese shark-finning vessels are converting to albacore vessels due to prohibitions introduced on sharkfin fishing which has adversely affected the profitability of these vessels targetting sharks for their fins;
  • Vessel construction and operation of small- and medium-sized longliners is far more economical than operating large-scale longliners, which by comparison are in decline; and
  • traditional refrigerated carriers are being gradually replaced with more versatile individual super refrigerated (-60°C) cargo containers, which are well suited to accommodating small catch consignments; super-refrigerated storage capacity has also been developed on vessels.

Given the economic and social ramifications of purely biological based potential management options [Dr Peter Miyake] concluded that:

“The best alternative is to seek a point of compromise through a fair balance of social, economic, environmental and biological factors. Scientists must come up with an unbiased and transparent way to achieve a balance among these various factors, without being affected by prejudiced propaganda, money or political pressures.”

I must say I do agree.

Menhaden fishing - purse seine boats encirclin...


What is a purse seine? What is  longlining? Are there any other methods used to take tuna?

Purse seine


Pole and Line

tuna troll

These images are from the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) website. For more on tuna harvesting methods see

Finally a viable tuna farming option: The Oceansphere™ (Really?)

The Oceansphere™

I was taking a superficial look at tuna farming oceans… understanding of course that the very concept of tuna farming is fraught with issues… and I came across the video [below]…

This video is copyright Hawaii Oceanic Technology, Inc. Honolulu, HI 2007-2011

The Oceansphere™ was designed by Hawaii Oceanic Technology as a way to domesticate seafood production in the open ocean, which uses the latest technology and robotics. It is claimed that it is environmentally friendly and economically viable. Hawaii Oceanic Technology warrant that one Oceansphere can produce up to 2,000 tons of seafood depending on species. This depiction is of of twelve planned Oceanspheres that are to be deployed off the Big Island of Hawaii. The plan is to deploy all twelve Oceanspheres within a one square kilometre ocean column. With respect to there state of the art fish rearing sphere, Hawaii Oceanic Technology claims:

Our patented design includes innovations that pertain to robotics, geostatic positioning, inertial navigation telemetry and environmentally responsible fish rearing. By leveraging such breadth of expertise and intellectual property, the Oceansphere™ is able to support a self-sustaining deep water environment nearly twice as large as any contemporary tethered cage. The massive scale and deep water operation of this technology affords many benefits, all of which combine to provide an economically viable and environmentally sustainable method to meet society’s ever-growing demand for seafood.

Pretty Impressive in my view… by their numbers, I estimate this that all twelve sphere could produce a total yield of 24,000 tons. But my question is a yield of what? Sea Bream? Tuna? Bluefin tuna perhaps? I would wager that sustainable tuna is what the market requires.

It seems that the Oceansphere™ has all the technical aspects sorted. Is it this easy?

According to the Euronews article Breakthrough in Bluefin Tuna farming it is not easy at all. According to Robert Vassallo-Agius, a biologist at the Malta Aquaculture Research centre, Bluefin tuna are very difficult to raise for a number of reasons:

“Bluefin Tuna use light and temperature to know when to reproduce.  They are also very sensitive to water-quality.  But that’s not all. Bluefin Tuna poses another problem; it is a very big and delicate fish. So because of its size we can’t handle it, we can’t check it, we can’t see what maturation stage it is at, like we do with sea bream, for example. And for this reason it causes another problem which is logistics; how to collect the eggs.”

“We ensure that the fish have perfect living conditions.  Also we ensure that every care is taken to avoid any kind of problem during the eggs-laying period.”

Harvesting even small quantities of farmed eggs is extremely difficult because Bluefin Tuna need special care all year round.

[…] “We have achieved the reproduction of Bluefin Tuna in captivity. So now that we have shown that is possible, the next hurdle is breeding Bluefin Tuna larvae [and ensuring their survival], and that will require a special effort.”

Last year scientists managed to keep some of them alive for more than 70 days. Now they are hoping that some of them will grow to at least a kilo, which is a challenge given that there are problems like stress and cannibalism to overcome. According to Aurelio Ortega, another biologist, from the Instituto Español de Oceanografía: “

“Bluefin Tuna grows very fast. This is why tuna have very high nutritional requirements. It needs a lot of energy, much more than other species that we are farming. So we have to give them very high-energy food compared with the food that we give to sea bream or seabass, for example. But this is also a fish that lays eggs in salt water rather than fresh, so it needs very high quality water with high concentrations of oxygen.”

I have a feeling that the Oceansphere™ has the larval problem sorted. But what about the high nutritional and high energy requirements? Afterall the sphere also claims that it promotes “environmentally responsible fish rearing”.

My next question is How? I think I still have to give this one some thought… I am not sure where I sit on this yet.

 Related articles

Provocation: The use of imagery by some eNGOs to obtain an appropriate responses from customers

SASSI Provocation


I found this image today on the Ads of the World webpage. The ad was produced by WWF-SASSI (SASSI = South African Sustainable Seafood Initiative). This add also sits pride of place on the Freshly Vegetarian, Treehugger and Eccorazzi websites.

As ads go, this is a very good one. From a marketing point of view I think it’s impact is colossal, in that it reaches its brief of being extremely provocative (shocking even) – while keeping the messaging simple. Leading with the head of a dolphin is genius (the most charismatic or all charismatic mega-fauna). Also building the composite with the body parts of other recognisable charismatic fauna, that are the foundations of many eNGO causes célèbre is also extremely clever (I personally am very fond of turtles)Furthermore the carving out of only a small portion of the composite image and clearly indicating that small portion as tuna, is also not only very intuitive and intelligent design, it is very affective at providing us with the the intended message.

This ad provokes in me the requisite response; and I am sure it does in others. However I know it is both factually false and deliberately misleading.

The caption reads “Only a portion of the catch in long line tuna fishing is actually tuna.” however on the Ads of the World website the caption below the image read “Only a tenth of the catch in long line tuna fishing is actually tuna.”

This caption is categorically untrue.

Unfortunately as is the case of all statements, once the dye is cast… the clean up afterwards is always a difficult undertaking; and in my opinion a waste of time. Unfortunately, Government and industry have no option other than to counter these often baseless and vexatious allegations with evidence; eNGOs are free to come back again unfettered by fact and/or context. I am sure WWF-SASSI know this.

It goes like this – where Governments who are subject to voters, are held to the best available scientific information and are statutorily, administratively and constitutionally obliged to report facts to those voters; and where the Seafood Industry whose rights to harvest and utilise marine resources are subject to Government legal and regulatory regimes, are required to demonstrate compliance (such as accurate catch and by-catch recording and catch and by-catch reporting, lawful landing of catch (and by-catch), lawful processing and providing provision for government observers on board vessels etc); eNGOs in contrast are comparatively free to ‘drum their own beat‘ and do what they want, unfettered by any legal obligation to be ACCURATE (other than of course civil legislation).

In short eNGOs can say and do what they like. Represent things any way they like.

All they have to do is identify a perceived problem. DEVELOP the nature and scope of that problem. REPRESENT and MARKET the problem as a REAL problem (e.g. this image). And sell their ability to solve that problem. I should point out that there is no requirement to solve the “problem”. 

Below the image in smaller text it reads:

“Most commercial fishing gear is not completely selective. As a result many endangered sea animals are also captured.”

These two sentences are for the most part true. If only this message of ‘teh need for gear improvement and innovation to reduce protected species captures’ was the leading message instead of the misleading headline or the commercial messaging at the very bottom:

“To ensure the fish you buy is caught in a way that is environmentally friendly, text our fishms number (079 499 8795) with the type of fish and you’ll receive an sms back as to weather it’s in the red, orange or green category. Sassi”

Where can I find robust information on tuna by-catch?

For those of you who are interested in tuna long-line by-catch and the state of global tuna fisheries; and would like to read more. May I suggest an IUCN paper by E Gilman and C Lundin,  Minimizing Bycatch of Sensitive Species Groups in Marine Capture Fisheries: Lessons from Tuna Fisheries.

UntitledThis paper is produced by IUCN. The IUCN (the International Union for Conservation of Nature) is an IGO (made up of  more than 1,000 organizations, as well as 10,000 scientists and experts structured in six Commissions rather) than an NGO that drums its own beat. The IUCN is the world’s oldest and largest global environmental organization, is in my opinion a good authority, and good place to start.

Another good paper is one produced by ISSF, Bycatch in the World’s Tuna Fisheries: An Overview of the State of Measured Data, Programs and a Proposal for a Path Forward. This white paper is another good start. It is problem based and goal orientated, and is an easy short read.

ISSF (International Seafood Sustainability Foundation) is a global coalition of scientists,  seafood industry leaders and environmentalists. ISSF features an independent Scientific Advisory Committee, an Environmental Stakeholder Committee, a By-catch Project Scientific Steering Committee, a Vessel Committee. ISSF’s undertakes science-based initiatives for the long-term conservation and sustainable use of tuna stocks, reducing by-catch and promoting ecosystem health. ISSF are another good place to start.