Saving Tuna Populations in the Pacific
The Western and Central Pacific Ocean is the epicenter of the world’s tuna supply, but supply is dwindling.
For millions of people around the world, tuna fish is a regular part of their diet and important protein source.
The waters of the Western and Central Pacific produce 60 percent of the world’s tuna—a haul of nearly 3 million metric tons worth almost $7 billion each year. Ecological degradation threatens to disrupt the global seafood supply and crush Pacific Island economies that rely heavily on tuna revenues.
Keenly aware of what’s at stake, regional governments are working toward better management and monitoring solutions in this longline tuna fishery. But they’re missing some critical information needed to roll out more sustainable fishing practices, such as the type and number of species caught.
The Nature Conservancy is working with local partners to help close the data gap by funding scientific research on longline fishing practices. In tandem, TNC is rolling out electronic monitoring technology in the tuna fishery to improve oversight. Using motion sensors and GPS systems with cameras, government and industry players can see what species are being brought on board. These investments not only provide a lifeline to an ailing ecosystem but also help regional leaders create more informed—and more sustainable —fishery policies. This multi-faceted approach will help stabilize regional ecosystems, protect the world’s tuna supply and preserve local cultural traditions.
Tuna populations are being seriously overfished; bycatch is harming sharks, sea turtles, rays, and other vulnerable species; and Illegal, Unreported, Unregulated (IUU) fishing is a real problem. Recovery is possible, but it will take collaborative effort. The Indo-Pacific Tuna Program brings together a wide range of partners—stretching from the Marshall Islands to Indonesia—to build healthy and sustainable tuna fisheries, reduce bycatch of vulnerable species and improve socio-economic returns for Pacific communities.
To protect critically important tuna fisheries, TNC is testing new, innovative fishing practices to reduce the bycatch of sensitive marine species like turtles, sharks, and rays. We are also conducting on-the-water research like tuna demand assessments and testing electronic monitoring technology to improve management and help prevent IUU tuna fishing.
TNC’s long history of in-country experience provides a strong foundation to build a new model of profitable and sustainable tuna fisheries management in the Western Central Pacific and the Indian Ocean. We have built on our partnership with Palau to finalize critical cooperative agreements with the governments of the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, and the Solomon Islands.
TNC has also developed productive working relationships within the industry, including independent fishing companies in Palau and Indonesia, Luen Thai Fishing Venture and TriMarine—two of the world’s largest tuna fishing companies—Japan’s Okinawa-based longline tuna fleet, and several large seafood suppliers to North American markets.