December 3, 2012
Groups Worried That Overfishing Is Threatening Bigeye Tuna
redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online
Environmentalists, fishing experts, and Pacific Island nations are concerned over depleting stocks of the bigeye tuna, and are calling for stricter catch limits to help prevent overfishing.Participants at a Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) conference are calling for a 30-percent reduction of bigeye catch limits in the region, according to AFP reports published Sunday.
"Participants at the conference“¦ said action must be taken not only to preserve tuna resources but also other marine life that are accidentally caught with them," the news agency added. "Some tuna varieties are overfished while others are near their limits, participants at the meeting said. Additionally, tuna fishers often catch sharks, rays and other fish in their nets, depleting their numbers as well."
The WCPFC, which is comprised of more than 30 nations and territories including the US, China, and Australia, oversees the Asia-Pacific region, from which more than half of the world's annual tuna catch originates, the AFP said. Currently, more than 150,000 metric tons of bigeye tuna are caught there each year, and that's too much, according to what WCPFC executive director Glenn Hurry told reporters this weekend.
"The catch is too big. We need to find a way to reduce that“¦ by 30 percent," Hurry said.
Palau fisheries official Nanette Malsol, who in addition to fishing cutbacks is also seeking for decreased use of more destructive fishing methods, told Jim Gomez of the Associated Press (AP) that the group is expecting the suggestion to re-ignite a heated debate between the fishing industry and conservationists over how to best protect the vulnerable creatures without causing businesses to lose too much income from the species, which is highly coveted for sushi.
In a statement also released on Sunday, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) also gave their support behind measures that would limit overfishing of the bigeye tuna in the Pacific Island region.
"If pragmatic management measures such as putting limits on tuna fisheries are not soon applied, tuna fisheries in the Pacific will face continued declines resulting in substantial negative impacts on our fishing communities and marine ecosystem," Alfred Cook, Western Central Pacific Tuna Program for the organization's Smart Fishing Initiative, said in that statement.
"Currently, tuna fisheries in this region are subject to management measures imposed on a relatively opportunistic basis under a consensus-based system, subject to many competing interests and values, including a broad range of competing interests that often lead to decisions that maximize short-term economic interests at the expense of long-term productivity and sustainability that further leads to overfishing," he added.
Among the things the WWF is calling for is a series of standardized benchmarks to measure harvests, as well as a set of regulations that will allow the WCPFC to prevent those limits from being exceeded.
“Our ultimate goal is to put a halt to overfishing, to ensure our fish stocks remain in a healthy state so that there is sustainable supply of fish to our markets," Cook added.