Fisherman rewarded for recovering 50,000th tuna tag
A Papua New Guinean fisherman has won USD500 for recovering a plastic tag that was attached to the back of a yellowfin tuna.
The fish was tagged and released by the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) on 15 May 2011 and is the 50,000th tag to be returned to SPC.
Johnathan Joul from Kananam village, near Madang, spotted the yellow tag on the back of the yellowfin on board the Dolores 828, about 140 miles from where the fish had been released in the Bismarck Sea.
“Recovering the tags is crucial to the success of our tagging program,” says John Hampton,SPC’s Oceanic Fisheries Programme Manager, “so we offer cash rewards to fishers as an incentive to return the tags to us.”
The 50,000th tag came with a special reward of USD500 to celebrate the milestone.
The objective of tagging is to establish an experimental population of tuna which can then be monitored and modeled as the tagged fish are recaptured.
SPC has been tagging tuna since the 1970s to collect critical information for assessing tuna stocks in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean, the world’s biggest tuna fishery.
Its Pacific Tuna Tagging program is an initiative of the Pacific Island community to ensure the best information is available to manage their oceanic ecosystems.
“Tuna is hugely important to the region,” says Hampton. “Many Pacific Island countries and territories rely heavily on it for income through fishing licenses. Local people rely on it for their livelihoods. We need to know how much tuna is out there and whether the amount of fishing is sustainable.”
Yellowfin is one of the four tuna species mainly targeted by fishers in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean fishery; the others are bigeye, skipjack and south Pacific albacore.
SPC estimates the 2010 catch for all four species at 2.4 million tons, the second highest annual catch on record. That’s 83% of the total Pacific Ocean catch and 60% of the global tuna catch.
Bigeye represents just 5% of the total tuna catch but the species is being overfished, according to SPC’s 2010 stock assessment, released in January.
“Bigeye tuna is not at risk of extinction, and is never likely to be,” says Hampton, “but the amount of bigeye fishing needs to be reduced by about one third to ensure long-term sustainability.”
(Source: Secretariat of the Pacific Community media release)