MANTA, Ecuador, May 10, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- Fisheries, research scientists and tuna fishers boarded a vessel in Manta, Ecuador today and will spend the next two months at-sea launching the next phase of a globally coordinated project to promote effective, practical techniques to reduce the environmental impact of tuna fishing.
Purse seine vessels, which use large nets to catch fish, provide the world with millions of tons of tuna every year. When crews use floating objects that attract fish, called FADs, it makes the method more time and fuel efficient. But there is one main drawback - by catch, the unintended capture of marine life. An average of 5% of a vessel's catch can be non-tunas and sharks. The International Seafood Sustainability Foundation (ISSF) has called for a significant reduction in this potentially environmentally damaging waste and has spent more than one year facilitating the detailed planning of a worldwide project incorporating research, fisher education and development of new techniques and uses for existing technology.
"The problem and its scope have been identified," said Susan Jackson, President of ISSF. "Now it's time to get on the water and make significant improvements alongside industry that help them to remain viable without jeopardizing the world's tuna resources and the ocean's complex marine ecosystem."
This first cruise - a scientific collaboration between ISSF and the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC) - will spend two months in the eastern Pacific Ocean onboard the Yolanda L, a purse seine vessel owned by Frigorificos Pesqueros Infripesca, and led by Captain Ricardo Diaz. A workboat carried aboard the Yolanada L to conduct various experiments on aggregations of tunas associated with FADs will be equipped with a remotely operated vehicle (ROV), a state of the art echosounder and acoustic tracking systems. These technologies will be used by scientists to explore and potentially identify new fishing practices to allow purse seine vessels to continue harvesting healthy stocks of tunas while reducing the impact on vulnerable species.
"In reality all fisheries have trade-offs and a certain level of environmental impact. Some have advocated for abandoning these fisheries, a move that industry has warned us would cut the world's tuna supply in half, lead to thousands of job losses and additional financial strain on developing economies," Jackson said. "Rather than walking away and giving up, we must help a willing industry improve its practices."
The eastern Pacific Ocean is an important place to start because of the impact purse seine FAD fishing has on a species of tuna called bigeye. The region's stock has been struggling to recover from overfishing in recent years. IATTC Senior Scientist Kurt Schaefer will lead the team aboard the Yolanda L in trials that have promise to reduce the amount of bigeye caught in nets. Researchers will also look for ways to prevent the entanglement of turtles and sharks in FADs by testing different designs made of biodegradable materials.
"This cruise will help our team of scientists and collaborators improve the educational workshops already being conducted with fishing crews around the world," said Dr. Victor Restrepo, Chair of the ISSF Scientific Advisory Committee. "As scientists identify new solutions, we will incorporate the findings into workshops so that skippers and vessel captains can provide real-time feedback. If something isn't realistic or fishers have an idea on how to improve it, we'll have the ability to take the idea back onto the water."
Workshops have already been held in fishing ports in the Americas, Africa, Europe and the Pacific Islands region. More are planned in the coming months.
While the first vessel project will conduct work in the eastern Pacific Ocean, additional cruises will launch in the western and central Pacific and Atlantic Oceans over the next year.
About the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation (ISSF)
The International Seafood Sustainability Foundation (ISSF) is a global coalition of scientists, the tuna industry and World Wildlife Fund (WWF), the world's leading conservation organization, promoting science-based initiatives for the long-term conservation and sustainable use of tuna stocks, reducing by catch and promoting ecosystem health. To learn more, visit their website at http://iss-foundation.org
About the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC)
The Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC) is responsible for the conservation and management of tuna and tuna-like species and other species taken by vessels fishing for tuna and tuna-like species in the eastern Pacific Ocean. The objective of the Commission is to ensure the long-term conservation and sustainable use of the fish stocks covered by their Convention, in accordance with the relevant rules of international law. It was created in 1949 by a Convention between Costa Rica and the United States, amended in 2003 by the Antigua Convention, and today has 20 members and 2 cooperating non-parties. To learn more, visit http://www.iattc.org
SOURCE International Seafood Sustainability Foundation