Lack of data affects tuna stock assessments

Foreign fishing nations who benefit immensely from fishing in the Western and Central Pacific region’s US$7.2 billion fishery are not releasing valuable tuna stock data needed to manage and sustain the industry. Forum Fisheries Agency Director General James Movick said the effect of that attitude was that stock owners in the Pacific would reduce the amount of fisheries to be fished.

“In the absence of accurate data we have to employ the precautionary approach and restrict fisheries to lower levels, in order to take into account the greater risk that we may be overfishing,” he said. “In a way, the distant water fishing nations that refuse to honour their agreements to provide operational data to the scientists are shooting themselves in the foot.” Movick’s comments were made in response to concerns raised last month at a tuna stock assessment meeting by Dr Shelton Harley head of the Stock Assessment and Modelling team within the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) Oceanic Fisheries Programme.

The annual meeting, hosted by SPC, helps scientists assess the status of bigeye, skipjack, and yellowfin tunas in the Western Central Pacific Ocean. Harley said in early 2014, three scientists from Taiwan came to SPC headquarters in New Caledonia and brought with them important data on Taiwanese fishing.

“It was a very large data set representing over 200,000 longline sets with details of the tuna caught,” he told Islands Business. “The data was based on logsheets of fishing vessels and are similar to the logsheets used by other fleets in the Pacific. “Governments of several major fishing fleets in the region are currently unable to provide this detailed data to organisations like the SPC or the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) because of domestic laws surrounding data confidentiality.

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