Tuna poachers reap big profits

A new study has found that illegal tuna fishing in the Pacific Ocean is bringing in profits of $520 to $740 million a year.

The study, carried out by the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency, found that illegal fishing is typically carried out by licensed vessels that under-report their catches or transfer them to other ships at sea. That adds up to somewhere between 276,000 to 338,000 tons of illegally caught Pacific tuna every year.

The study did not name the specific nations where the poached fish end up, but Japan, which is the world’s largest consumer of tuna, clearly must be the market for much of it. Still, no one knows for sure because it is almost impossible to monitor. There are almost no international resources in place to check where fish come from, and even fewer resources to police the vast waters of the Pacific Ocean. Transferring tuna to other vessels or simply under-reporting what is caught is easily done.

If tuna populations were as viable now as nearly 50 years ago, illegal fishing might not be such a problem. However, many scientific studies have found that almost all populations of fish have halved since 1970. Overall, the Pacific supplies about 60 percent of the world’s tuna, but because of over-fishing its tuna populations are in danger of collapse.

The report found that one third of the illegally caught tuna was skipjack tuna (katsuo), followed by yellowfin tuna (kihada maguro) at 31 percent and bigeye tuna (mebachi maguro) at 19 percent. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature puts yellowfin’s status as near threatened, bigeye as vulnerable, or nearly endangered, while skipjack remains of less, though increasing, concern since stocks of the extremely popular Pacific Bluefin tuna (hon maguro) has been found to be depleted by up to 96 percent.

Sustainable, legal, regulated and enforced fishing of tuna in the Pacific is in everyone’s interests, especially countries like Japan where tuna is immensely popular. Such illegal fishing is a form of robbery and often fails to distinguish between juvenile and mature tuna, so that tuna populations are being depleted faster than they can be replaced. Distinguishing the catch is important because tuna is a fish that takes many years to reach maturity and begin to reproduce. Bluefin tuna can live 40 years and reproduce many times, if given the chance.

Japan should help to set up a system of monitoring, both financially and technologically, and push for international agreements on how to enforce the legal size of catches. Management of juvenile stocks of tuna has met with some success, but deserves greater support.

Conservation and sustainable fishing of tuna should become the norm, but the way must be led by one of the largest consumers of tuna in the world—Japan.

  • David Mowers

    Here’s what President Mowers would do about this,

    Pull out of every international treaty.

    Issue a proclamation that human activity is destroying the Earth.

    Issue an order of Manifest Destiny making the Pacific Ocean and one-half of the Atlantic Ocean off limits to fishing for one hundred years.

    Order the U.S. Navy to shoot all violating vessel and sink them with no mercy or rescue.

    …’cause sometimes, every once in a while, a, “leader,” has to have some balls and really acre about the world he is leaving behind.

  • telena helotova

    it doesnt take a genius to know what will happen and allways does happen to commercial exploitation of wild resources, they become extinct basically and no longer viable commerically this is a natural law. when one takes never gives back and it is all a greedy self absorbed process this is what happens. a ban on all commercial fishing whaling,etc shellfish etc etc Z(native traditionalists excluded as tro their own idea on this subject)ocean needs a brewak earth needs a break and all us need a break i.e if you dont know who and what they are doing you are a zombie.