Marshall Islands sees tuna rebound

Photo: WWF

Marshall Islands Marine Resources Authority (MIMRA) records show that tuna transshipment in Majuro rebounded following the disastrous first year of Covid in 2020 when transshipment plummeted by 60 percent compared to the year before.

“Are they coming back?” MIMRA Director Glen Joseph asked rhetorically about the purse seine transshipment operations. “Yes, but a review of the data shows there are factors involved (in transshipment trends).”

Weather conditions El Niño and La Niña impact the fishery, pushing the fish east and west depending on the different conditions. For the past two years, tuna schools have been concentrated in the Papua New Guinea-Solomon Islands area of the South Pacific. But, said Joseph, looking at the real-time movement of purse seiners over a five-day period during mid-January, there was significant fishing activity heading from the south into southern Federated States of Micronesia waters, which he observed is a good sign for future transshipment. The closer fishing vessels are fishing to Majuro, the more transshipment business is likely to occur.

One of the best years ever was 2019, with 441 transshipments moving over 359,000 tons of tuna through Majuro for onward delivery to canneries. Then came 2020 and Covid, resulting in only 176 transshipments and 118,000 tons of tuna transshipped — a 10-year low.

Still, 2021 rebounded with 297 transshipments and last year was less, but still stronger than 2020 with 251 transshipments. Covid hammered transshipment in 2020, and environmental factors that kept tuna in the west played an obvious roll the past two years in slowing transshipment numbers.

“Despite the crash in 2020, it is recovering,” he said. “What will it look like in 2023?” The jury is out on that, with a slow start in early January based on location of the tuna. But Joseph pointed out, it is usually the second and third quarters of the year that Majuro sees an uptick in transshipment activity in Majuro. Majuro remains a port that is liked by fishing companies due to many factors including location, facilities for resupply and repairs, and access to international flights for crew changes, he indicated.

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