Despite a challenging 2020, progress continued on two large scale tuna longline Fishery Improvement Projects in the Western and Central Pacific and Indian Oceans.
An understanding and implementation of longline tuna fishing best practices is foundational to ensuring sustainable tuna fisheries. Training vessel owners and operators on these best practices is one way to ensure tuna fisheries reduce their impact on the marine environment and other non-target species.
As part of the South Pacific Albacore and Western and Central Pacific Yellowfin Tuna Longline FIP and the Indian Ocean Albacore Tuna Longline FIP, FCF, Bumble Bee and partners conducted two workshops in 2020 to train participating FIP vessels on ways to modify fishing techniques to improve sustainability outcomes. Alongside best practice fishing techniques FCF and Bumble Bee also held workshops to introduce the FCF social audit program and conduct audits with the FIP vessel participants.
On 24-25 February 2020, FCF, Bumble Bee and FIP partners held a workshop in Fiji to train 12 companies participating in the Western and Central Pacific FIP and on 16 December 2020 in Taiwan for 9 companies participating in the Indian Ocean FIP.
Vessel owners and operators gather in Fiji to review new regional rules and regulations and discuss best practices in reducing tuna fishery impacts on the marine environment. © Ocean Outcomes
The workshop helped reiterate the importance of continued best practice.
The workshops focused on reiterating the practical approaches fishing vessels should use to reduce interactions with non-target and protected species and how to handle these species if they are accidentally brought to the surface.
A core focus of both workshops was training skippers on basic longline gear best practices and fishing techniques that can effectively reduce the bycatch of certain species. Best practices such as circle hooks, monofilament lines and tori lines that have been in place for some time across the fleet and the workshop training helped reiterate the importance of their continued use. Workshop training topics included:
- Using wide circle hooks which reduce the accidental capture of sea turtles by minimizing the likelihood of a hook getting deeply hooked and which offer a greater probability of safe dehooking.
- Use of monofilament leads that enable sharks to bite through and escape if accidentally hooked.
- Setting hooks deeper in the water column by using longer drop lines to avoid interactions with shallow water and surface bycatch species, such as seabirds.
- Using fish as bait instead of squid as sea turtles tend to swallow squid bait whole whereas they tend to bite on fish bait, reducing the frequency of deep hooking instances which are harder to release.
- Modifying fishing practices to use tori lines, line weighting and setting at night which drastically reduces seabird interaction with fishing lines and hooks.
The training also included a review of the regional rules by the international bodies, the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) and Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC). These rules cover the common non-target bycatch and endangered, protected and threatened species encountered in standard longline operations, notably sea turtles, sharks, rays and seabirds. It also covered the Marine Stewardship Council standard and a review and discussion of the fisheries’ opportunities for improvement identified in prior MSC pre-assessments.
Tuna fishing vessels part of the FIPs are working to modify their longline fishing practices to reduce bycatch and interactions with non-tuna species. © Ocean Outcomes
Training for vessel owners and operators through workshops such as these are an important step towards environmental sustainability.
Generating an awareness and understanding of best practice are core action items in the first years of both FIP workplans. An understanding of the positive impact maintaining the use of specific gear can have, RFMO regulations and safe handling and release measures will help FIP-participating vessels deliver on their commitment to adopt improvements in fishing operations.
These improvements will help to reduce bycatch and ultimately minimize the impact of the two fisheries on the pelagic ecosystem as both FIPs work towards the Marine Stewardship Council standard.
Learn more about the South Pacific Albacore and Western and Central Pacific Yellowfin Tuna Longline FIP and Indian Ocean Albacore Tuna Longline FIP. Thanks to our partners at Bumble Bee Seafoods, FCF, ISSF and AZTI for workshop and FIP support.