Big eye tuna nears being over-fished

The National Tue, 25 May 2010 PORT MORESBY, PNG ----- The big eye tuna species is close to being over-fished unless countries of the Western and Central Pacific Ocean (WCPO) cut their fishing rate by 30 percent.

This is according to a 'Status of stocks report' (1/2008) on both purse seine fishery and long-line for the period 2004 to 2008 that was compiled by the secretariat of the Pacific community (SPC).

The status report was disclosed to the forum fisheries committee (FFC) of 17-member countries including PNG at its 74th meeting in Solomon Islands from May 11-14.

Sylvester Pokajam, managing director for National Fisheries Authority (NFA) who chaired the meeting, said it was during this meeting that scientists from SPC told the gathering of the status on fish stock especially the big eye tuna.

"On the big eye, the assessment is very, very bleak ... all fishing is currently occurring, therefore, scientists are calling for a reduction in effort by 30% to save the big eye on current level.

"What they are saying is, if we continue to fish on current level the big eye stock will be depleted ... so now they are calling for 30% effort cut on the fishing on big eye," Pokajam said shortly after his return to the country.

"So, this is an area in which I want to send a message to PNG and its citizens on the status of this stock because many times we hear from non-governmental organisations, and other people within PNG that fish is being depleted or over-fished.

"So I want to ensure that people know that this is the current situation based on the stock assessment carried out by SPC," Pokajam said.

He also discussed status report on other fish species.

According to the stock status, the South Pacific albacore was not being over-fished as it was being fished within its maximum sustainable yield annually of 98,000 metric tonnes.

Pokajam said the status of the yellow fin stock also revealed that it was not over-fished, and the skip jack stock was also not over-fished.

"The current status is sustainable for skip jack," he said, adding that the maximum sustainable yield that could be harvested in the WCPO by the purse seine are two to three million metric tonnes on sustainable basis.