SPC catch and harvest data supports research and management

The Oceanic Fisheries Programme of the Pacific Community (SPC) holds and manages all the data that is collected from commercial fisheries and from observers on board when fishing vessels are active in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean. It provides not only data, but also scientific analysis and advice, to its members to help them manage their fisheries.

The data is stored in TUFMAN 2, a web-based tool for entering and checking data. The data collected includes logsheets for longline, purse seine and pole-and-line vessels, unloading information for longliners and purse-seiners, and port sampling and position reports for longliners. Data is available to SPC’s 21 member countries when they:

  • use TUFMAN 2 to access their own databases
  • use the online tool DORADO to link with TUFMAN 2’s data, which is stored on the internet
  • formally ask SPC to send them summaries
  • access their own country’s data on the SPC Member Countries Tuna Fisheries website.

To get access to the members website, a login and password is needed from Emmanual Schneiter at SPC.

SPC researcher Steven Hare explains the benefits of using the website over older methods of recording data (51 secs).

SPC also runs training for fisheries officers

The Oceanic Fisheries Programme also provides training for SIDS fisheries officers, observers and others to help them collect data, and monitor and report on catches and harvests. As well as using the data collected in TUFMAN 2, it may include the different kinds of electronic reporting being used to manage fisheries.

SPC researcher Andrew Hunt explains the benefits of TUFMAN 2 and the training SPC does on how to use it (1.37 mins).

An app called Tails is being trialled as part of the OFMP2 project. It electronically records data from vessel captains at port. Andrew Hunt explains the app and its benefits (59 secs).

Young professionals gain career experience in SPC placements

SPC supports the career development of young professionals from member countries by providing 12 month work placements in the organisation.

Lucy Joy from Vanuatu Fisheries joined the Oceanic Fisheries Programme in 2017. She worked with Andrew Hunt. Hear what Lucy has to say about the benefits of her placement (3.11 mins).

Hear what Andrew Hunt has to say about the benefits of having Lucy work in the team (1.17 mins).

European Parliament-funded research points to stricter control of FADs

The European Parliament commissioned research on the use of fish-aggregating devices (FADs) in tuna fisheries, and published a report on the findings in 2014. FADs are deployed to improve fishing effort (the amount of fish caught for the effort put in). The report covers tuna fishing globally; about 60% of that catch comes from the WCPO. A summary of the findings is shown below.

How FADs affect tuna populations and fisheries

About 60% of the global catch of tropical tunas is made by purse-seine fishing, and nearly 65% of the purse-seine catch is made by fishing on floating objects, which are known as fish-aggregating devices (FADs). From the 1990s until 2014, purse-seine fishing grew at about 2% a year; in the same period, the use of FADs increased by 70%.

By 2014, purse-seine fishing using FADs was about 50% more productive (in tonnes caught per single fishing operation) than free-school fishing for the three tropical tunas in combination, and about twice as effective for skipjack tuna. (Free-school fishing occurs without the use of FADs.)

For yellowfin, the relative efficiency of FAD fishing is about the same as for free-swimming schools, although the size of yellowfin caught using FADs is much smaller than in free schools.

For bigeye, the use of FADs makes fishing 10 times more efficient than free-school fishing, although FAD-caught fish are much smaller.

It was estimated that, in 2013, more than 700 large-scale purse-seiners were using FADs. Most were authorised to fish in the Pacific. The number is approximate because of the lack of monitoring. FA management plans, which would permit the monitoring of FAD launches and usage, are not yet operating in most cases. It is estimated that about 91,000 FADs are deployed each year.

About 93% of the recent tropical tuna catch, mostly skipjack, came from healthy stocks. Most were caught using FADs. There is no strong evidence that the use of FADs necessarily leads to overfishing of the tunas, although harvesting large amounts of some small tuna (e.g. bigeye, yellowfin) can lead to an overall decline in the condition of these stocks, which are also affected by other fisheries (e.g. longline).

Some stocks are close to being fully exploited (fished at the limits of their capacity to reproduce), and increases in fishing pressure could well put them in decline.Unabated, the continued growth of FAD fishing for tropical tunas at the pace witnessed over the past few years would increase overall fishing pressure on these stocks.

Man on deck of fishing boat gutting dead tuna. Photo: Francisco Blaha.
Greater understanding of tuna and their population levels may lead to changes in FAD authorisations. Photo: Francisco Blaha.