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Threat of pole and line tuna shortage tackled


April 04 2012 Lewis Smith


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An organisation has been set up to ensure the growing demand for tuna caught by pole and line can be met without damaging fish numbers.

Pole and line caught tuna is increasingly in demand by consumers – chiefly in the UK, Northern Europe Australasia, Japan and North America - because of rising awareness of overfishing and damaging fishing techniques.

But many fisheries which use the pole and line technique are operated by small communities which are unaware of the demand for their produce.

The International Pole and Line Foundation (IPNLF) has now been set up to ensure the small fishery communities are put in touch with the buyers looking for pole and line supplies.

Moreover, the charity fears that unless such fisheries are identified and given the assistance they need the demand for pole and line caught tuna will outstrip supply and encourage overfishing.

John Burton, one of the trustees, said: “We believe pole and line is the most responsible and sustainable form of fishing for tuna. “There is considerable demand for pole and line tuna in the UK and around the world. There currently isn’t enough of it around to meet the demand.”

Many small communities around the world, however, catch tuna using the pole and line technique but do not sell it as such. Were they to sell it as ‘pole and line caught’ they would benefit from a market premium that would increase their income by about 10 per cent, said Mr Burton.

“That’s going to be the thrust of the Foundation – to bring that fish to market to meet demand and to do it to the benefit of the deprived fishing communities,” he said.

One of the improvements the charity hopes to bring about by identifying and engaging with the fishermen is to introduced more sustainable bait fish. To catch tuna on pole and lines requires bait but the small species used for this are often caught at unsustainable rates.

Other small-scale capital investment that the charity hopes to be able to provide to fishing communities includes improving the qua;lity of the tuna sent to market, improving safety on board and providing social benefits for families such as life insurance for the fishermen.

The charity also plans to set up a Pole and Line School in the Maldives later this year or early in 2013 to provide a global centre of excellence for the technique.

Andrew Bassford, one of the founders, said it is vital that pole and line fisheries are properly managed: “The global market demand for pole-and-line caught tuna is soaring as a direct result of environmental organisations increasing consumer awareness of sustainability issues.

“Unfortunately, many small fisheries often lack the knowledge and infrastructure to gain access to the global market. Therefore, adequate co-ordination of the market development of sustainable and equitable pole-and-line tuna is not just an opportunity, it has now become a necessity.

“If there is no proper management determining how the supply can be increased in a sustainable way, the increased demand will surely add to the problem of overcapacity in tuna fisheries.”

The foundation, a registered charity, is concentrating its initial efforts on the Maldives, where it has already opened a branch, and in Indonesia where it expects to open an office next year. In the future it hopes to operate in Japan, Brazil, the Philippines, small island states in the Pacific, India, Senegal, Ghana, Mozambique, Mexico southern Europe and the USA.



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