‘Technology can ensure sustainable future for tuna fisheries’
Most developing countries lack the capacity to address the issue of illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, mainly due to an unavailability of research data, financial constraints and lack of access to modern technology.
This was an observation made by speakers during the first day of a training workshop, titled ‘Improving Transparency and Traceability in Tuna Fisheries in North Indian Ocean’, organised by the World Wide Fund for Nature – Pakistan (WWF-Pakistan) on Wednesday.
The workshop was conducted under a project, Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction (ABNJ) which is financially supported by Global Environmental Fund (GEF), United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), International Seafood Sustainability Foundation and Common Oceans.
The project primarily focuses on sustainability of tuna fisheries worldwide by reducing illegal catch and supporting marine ecosystems and species. Four countries from the Northern Indian Ocean, in addition to local participants from government fisheries departments, maritime security agency and academia participated in the workshop.
Hammad Naqi Khan, director general of WWF-Pakistan, shared that marine resources were confronting major threats that include pollution, destructive fishing methods and IUU fishing.
The WWF-P chief emphasised the need to introduce technology, improve facilities at landing ports and build the capacity of officials of relevant departments. “Transboundary collaborations and exchange of research data and expertise can help increase the depleting tuna stocks of the Arabian Sea,” he said.
James Geehan, a fisheries statistician from the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) Secretariat, said data reports vary considerably according to species. Talking about fisheries in Pakistan, he said that no catch-and-effort or size data is submitted and that highly conflicting catch data was being reported to WWF-Pakistan and government departments over recent years.
He said that although a crew-based Regional Observer Scheme had been implemented in recent years, no data had been submitted to the IOTC Secretariat. In addition, Vessel Monitoring Systems (VMS) were partially implemented on a limited number of vessels in Pakistan and that number needed to enhanced.
Hawwa Raufath Nazir, project officer from Ministry of Fisheries and Agriculture, Maldives, shared that all products of tuna and grouper exported from Maldives are required by law to be accompanied with a catch certificate. She also informed that most instances of IUU fishing are known from foreign vessels.
She said losses from IUU fishing in the Maldives EEZ were estimated to be between $5.16 –37.19 million. Due to the high sea-to-land mass ratio, she said, it was very challenging to combat IUU fishing. Each year, during the fishing season, joint surveillance operations were conducted with the help of neighbouring countries. “So far, no IUU cases have been recorded this year,” she added.
Alfred Schumm, director of WWF-International, shared that IUU fishing accounted for 20 percent of the total global fish stocks. In order to tackle this issue, governments need to ensure regular monitoring, surveillance and sustainable management of fisheries. He emphasised that transparency and traceability could only be possible through placement of Automatic Identification System (AIS); VMS, and Global Positioning System (GPS).
“This would not only improve fisheries management but would support in traceability of other products from the oceans,” he added.
Muhammad Wasim, director general of Marine Fisheries Department, Pakistan, said that as per data from 2016, there are 19,148 fishing boats operating in Pakistani waters and the annual fish production is 588,581 metric tonnes. He pointed out that IUU fishing problem mainly exists on Pakistan’s eastern border by Indian fishing boats. Every year, said Wasim, about 100 Indian boats are apprehended by the Pakistan Maritime Security Agency (PMSA).
He termed fishing at high seas, outside the country’s EEZ, also a kind of IUU fishing. He shared that although no IUU fishing boat is authorised to land their fish catch at any port but no law is in place to tackle such matters. Wasim stated that traceability and transparency in the fish trade was important to combat IUU fishing.