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COVID-19: Challenges and opportunity for Pacific tuna industry

Tuna expert Dr Transform Aqorau says COVID-19 presents challenges and opportunities to equity in the Pacific’s tuna industry.

Marking World Tuna Day in a virtual link-up hosted by Pacific Island Developing States and the United Nations’ Group of Friends of the Oceans, Dr Aqorau said the tuna industry will suffer as “quarantine requirements; suspension of air flights; and disruptions to the supply chain will affect the supply of tuna to regional and global markets. This will have adverse impact on jobs in the Pacific and on foreign exchange earnings from the industry”.

But he said it is also an opportunity to rebuild a more equitable Pacific tuna industry, suggesting Pacific governments “should explore incentive structures that encourage increased processing within the region.”

Dr Aqorou said that climate change and illegal and underreporting of tuna catches were a growing concern that Pacific governments need to be fighting for in the international arena.

A statement issued by the Western and Central Pacific  Fisheries Commission to mark the day said “it is gratifying for the WCPFC to celebrate the World Tuna Day in 2020 in the comfort and knowledge that the four key commercial tuna stocks;  bigeye, yellowfin, skipjack and the South Pacific albacore tuna stocks are all assessed to be managed  and maintained above the agreed sustainable levels.”

Fiji’s Permanent Representative to the UN, Dr Satyendra Prasad remined the UN audience that “accelerating international action in achieving the SDG 14 – Life Below Water should be part of the UN’s response. This should also become a core part of the COVID-19 recovery efforts – the recovery must be a sustainable blue recovery as well.

World Tuna Day is celebrated on May 2.

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