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Urgent need for stock assessment of South Pacific Albacore

The scientific committee of Western Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) reported last year that “Pacific Island domestic fleets, which are dependent on albacore, continue to experience diminishing CPUE-catch per unit effort, thereby affecting profitability and in many cases, survival. According to the report, the total South Pacific albacore catch in 2012 (89,259 mt) was a 24 % increase over 2011 and a 22 % increase over 2007-2011. Longline catches (86,064 mt) increased 25 % from 2007- 2011. Troll and other catches (3,158 mt) were down 8 % on 2011, but up 15 % on 2007-2011. Furthermore, the report states that it should be emphasized that increasing catch and effort on South Pacific albacore has occurred from 2009 to 2012, which is a concern. The current management measures appear not to be effective in constraining effort in the subtropics (south of 20 degree S). Sun Business, a local newspaper in Fiji recently reported that two major fishing companies have been shut down most of their operations in Fiji and the two companies’ cut back are only just part of the bigger tuna collapse occurring across the Pacific region.

OPRT contacted Mr. Charles Hufflett, Immediate past Chairman of the Pacific Islands Tuna Industry Association to verify the current situation in the region. He said,

“No stock assessment was conducted for South Pacific albacore tuna in 2013, although the scientific committee expressed a concern on the fact that increasing catch and effort on South Pacific albacore has occurred from 2009 to 2012. Tuna fleets in some South Pacific island countries are facing real problems now for survival. In order to ensure sustainable tuna longline fisheries in the region, the status of albacore should be urgently assessed by the scientific committee, followed by introduction of the adequate management measures by WCPFC. Management measures must include limiting the exponential growth of vessel numbers.“