Good old days when bluefin tuna abundantly captured by beach seine net

I have seen a picture depicting giant bluefin tuna caught by beach seine net flooded all over the beach. The picture was drawn in the medieval period in Cadiz, a famous historic town located close to the Strait of Gibraltar. Almost identical pictures can be seen in Japan. The pictures were actual photographs taken before the World War II in the beach of Sanin region in the western part of Japan facing Sea of Japan. In addition, I have heard of anecdotal story that southern bluefin tuna once captured by beach seine net.  There could be two kinds of interpretation about this picture, one is that there used to be a plenty of bluefin but now this kind of fishing is impossible due to depleted stock level, the other is that this kind of fishing became impossible due to avoidance of bluefin coming to close to the beach because of hazardous noise, lights, degradation of general beach condition created by human being. I tend to agree the second interpretation because it is a well known fact that bluefin repeats a big fluctuation of stock size caused by natural environmental changes. Beach set net targeting bluefin tuna may return someday.


Repeated question - Is Atlantic bluefin at the brink of extinction?

 My answer to this question frequently asked is “No”.  This seems to be supported by the recent information that the bluefin tuna is now full to the brim in the Mediterranean and East Atlantic, just one year after the dispute in CITES . You will recall the species was about to be designated as an endangered species for extinction at CITES COP 15 in 2010. The present situation also remind me of the ambiguity of the definition of “extinction” by CITES and IUCN. Let us wait and see what kind of result will be provided this September by scientists who update stock assessment of the Atlantic bluefin based on scientific analysis not by emotion.


Countermeasure to Confine PS Fleet Increase

The world tunas catch is 4.4 million tons, of which 2.9 million tons or 65% were caught by purse-seiners according to the statistic as of 2009. Since 1980's, the catch has been rapidly increasing till now as the purse-seine fleets are becoming larger and their fishing efficiency has been improved. Unlimited increase of the purse-seiners' catch and by-catch of juvenile tunas would cause harm to sustainability of other tuna fisheries unless some immediate measures should be implemented. This concern is rapidly intensifying among the inter national community.
On Jun. 8th, International Seafood Sustainability Foundation (ISSF) released the measures as the resolution aimed to address excess fishing by the global large-scale tuna purse seine fleets. According to the release, there is a clear necessity to reduce excessive number of tuna purse seiners which cause negative impact over tuna resources, but the first step is to prevent additional new vessels from being introduced into the already over-crowded tuna fisheries. In details, by Jan. 1st 2013, all processors, traders, importers, transporters and others involved in the seafood industry must refrain from transactions in skipjack, bigeye, and yellowfin tunas caught by large scale purse seiners that are not actively fishing for tuna December 31, 2012. This is not applicable for newly constructed vessels as replacement of older existing vessels and for those vessels under contract for construction.
The main members of ISSF are from the U.S. canned tuna industry, thus this boycott measure would have effects if they actually take action. The fishing industry would not be able to survive if they lose the market. This boycott has high potentials to prevent additional new large purse-seiners. In fact, Japan has already proved the efficacy of this boycott measure.
A total of 250 flag of convenience (FOC) large scale tuna long-liners, who operated fishery free of obligation from international resource management, were driven to withdraw because of the international embargo of FOC tunas which was supported by the Tuna Regional Fisheries Management Organizations (RFMOs). Tunas caught by FOC fleets had been concentrated into Japanese market, but the product was shut out when the measures to prohibit the international transaction of such tunas were strictly conducted. As a result, the FOC tuna long-liners were eliminated.
There have been some calls for preventing increase of large scale purse-seiners, but no one could actually stop the increase of the number. We expect that the measures ISSF resolved have their actual efficiency, if implemented globally. However, since there are markets for canned tunas worldwide such as the U.S.A., Europe, Central and South America, and so on, it would be not easy to elicit cooperation for the boycott measure from all relevant parties in the world who supply canned tunas.
We are afraid that the effect would end up less effectively if the boycott was activated only in a specific market. As for the FOC tunas, only Japan should have strong attitude because Japanese Sashimi market was the de facto only market in the world for them. From this perspective, to promote global boycott for the canned tuna should encounter many difficulties beyond any imagination.
In addition, developing countries possibly introduce large scale purse-seiners as their tuna fisheries develop. The development of tuna fisheries in those countries is respected as a legitimate right, and therefore it would be not easy to take boycott action by denying their development. The idea has been discussing to allow the developing countries to increase the purse-seine vessels by reducing number of large scale purse-seine vessels owned by the developed countries. However, no international agreement has been concluded yet in order to carry the idea into effect. Without the international agreement, it seems difficult to stop increase of new large-scale purse seine fleet in the developing countries.
There are many difficulties of the task ahead in order to make the ISSF's resolution effective not as being just propaganda. We hope it continues its efforts for the greater cause, sustainable tuna fisheries in the world. (This article is a translation from the Minato, fisheries daily in Japan.)