Sustainable tuna resources management in the Atlantic Ocean

Sustainable tuna resources management in the Atlantic Ocean

Atlantic Ocean Tropical Tuna Tagging Programme

I find this project particularly exciting and interesting - we are working both at sea tagging the tunas and we also have the human element working with different stakeholders from countries surrounding the Atlantic Ocean. I am enjoying watching the progress of stakeholders converting information into useful and practical management advice, upon which governments can act.

Douglas Beare, Project Coordinator, International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas

CONTEXT

Tuna fisheries are very important for coastal states of the Atlantic Ocean, and in particular for countries from western Africa and the Caribbean. Tuna are economically important and contribute to food security, and the sustainability of tuna industries is very important for these countries. In recent years, some tuna stocks in the Atlantic, particularly bigeye, have been overfished. Currently no data on tuna growth rates and migration patterns are available, as only data from commercial fisheries are available – which is why this Atlantic Ocean Tropical Tuna Tagging Programme is needed.

OBJECTIVES

  • To promote sustainable management of tropical tuna resources in the Atlantic Ocean guaranteeing current and future fishing opportunities - especially for local fishermen. This will contribute to food security and economic growth of the coastal states of the Atlantic. The final beneficiaries of this project are the local fishing communities and operators who depend on tuna fishing, plus consumers of tuna fish.
  • To give good advice based on relevant facts on tuna fishing to partner states, and thereby help them to use effective conservation and management measures. This is done through: tagging of tropical tuna to gather data, raising awareness of the tagging and the importance of the data gathering, research and data analysis and trainings of scientists and technicians from Atlantic coastal states.
  • To tag at least 120 000 tuna and recover a substantial quantity. When tagged tunas are recaught, the tags they carry provide useful information on tuna growth, natural mortality, movements, stock structure and interactions between surface and longline fisheries. The data collected through the tuna tagging will be used to support stock assessments, research and contribute to the future sustainable management of tropical tuna.
  • To increase the capacity of scientists from developing countries and facilitate their participation in the collection and analysis of the data collected through the programme.

RESULTS

  • More than 55 000 tropical tuna have been tagged and released – meaning ~45 % of the project target – and more than 10 000 have been recovered in the territorial waters of Azores since the start in June 2016. Scientists and technicians, both men and women, from developing countries have tagged over half of these fish. All the data have been checked and stored in a relational database at the Secretariat of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas.
  • Awareness and publicity campaigns promoting the tuna tagging project, tag-recovery reward schemes, and sustainable fishing have been implemented in ten countries. The awareness campaigns focus particularly on persons involved in the fisheries sector; the fishermen, the crews on the boats, the traders and the fish processors. Some activities have also been orientated towards the general public.
  • A smartphone application has been developed to collect and submit data from both tagging tunas at sea and tag-recovery. The application allows rapid and effective communication between the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas, tagging teams and/or tag-recoverers so problems with data are effectively resolved.
  • Scientists, technicians and other relevant stakeholders from developing Atlantic coastal states have been trained in tagging tunas, data collection and transmission and data analysis. The information will then be converted into useful and practical management advice, upon which governments can act.

FACTS AND FIGURES

  • Tuna contribute in many ways to the economies and food security in developing Atlantic coastal states. Sustainability of tuna fisheries is very important to these countries.
  • In 2012 and 2013, catches of yellowfin, bigeye and skipjack – the 3 main tropical tuna stocks in the Atlantic Ocean – reached 440 000 and 392 000 tons respectively: the skipjack catch reaching a historic peak of 258,000 tons.
  • Tuna species have a very large geographic distribution. Tuna undertake large migration across oceans for reproduction or feeding, and their management cannot be done at a national level like some other fish stocks.
  • Tagging 120 000 tuna across the Atlantic Ocean in this project is giving valuable data to improve our understanding of tuna fish growth, migration and mortality patterns.
  • This tuna tagging programme is not the first one to be funded by EU development funds – scientific models used in the Pacific and the Indian Ocean have largely been developed using tag-recapture data collected with EU-support.

TESTIMONY

Mr Babacar Kane works as a team leader for the tuna tagging recovery in the port of Dakar, Senegal. For him and the co-workers in his team the project provides income for their families, and the whole region is benefitting from the project indirectly.

"This tuna tagging project has a positive financial impact on the people who work on the tuna vessels. Indeed, thanks to this project, their daily income has increased because of the reward system for the recaptured tunas carrying tags. The money they earn they use to meet their daily needs – to buy school supplies and pay school fees for their children, food for the whole household and for religious festivals – and the earnings are also a buffer for covering unexpected expenses" says Mr Babacar Kane.

More importantly, the project has provided the fishermen and the workers with new knowledge. The fishermen have improved their knowledge in species identification, and they have learned how to measure the size of fish. The project has also raised awareness of how important it is for the fishing – and thereby for the income and food security – to manage the tropical tuna resources in a sustainable way. "They now understand the work of the scientists better and the importance of providing reliable information for good management of resources such as tuna. They see the link between the research work, sustainable tuna stocks and the impact of this on their own lives", Mr Babacar Kane explains.

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