Toulambi 1976 contact: fact or fable

Demise of the tuna; it could be sooner

BY PAUL OATES

THE CRY OF coastal PNG people Atung istap! (there’s a tuna boil!), could soon be just a thing of the past.

Further to PNG Attitude’s recent story, Tuna industry must not strip PNG resources, there’s increasing concern about the sustainability of world tuna and especially Pacific tuna stocks.

“Five of eight tuna species are now threatened or nearly threatened with extinction due to overfishing,” according to the Red List of Threatened Species, compiled by the Swiss-based International Union for the Conservation of Nature.

“Between 1940 and the mid-1960s, the annual world catch of the five principal market species of tunas rose from about 300 thousand tons to about one million tons, most of it taken by hook and line.

“With the development of purse-seine nets, now the predominant gear, catches have risen to more than four million tons annually during the last few years. Of these catches, about 68% are from the Pacific Ocean, 22% from the Indian Ocean, and the remaining 10% from the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea,” says the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation.

A recent ABC news report highlights that “the Solomon Islands government has ordered all tuna fishing fleets operating in its 200-mile exclusive economic zone to stop fishing”.

And an AFP article, Tuna species under threat, claims that “up to 90% of many large, open-water fish have been depleted by industrial-scale fishing over the last half-century, and marine scientists warn that continued harvesting could lead to irreversible declines of some species.  Because many are at the top of the food chain, their disappearance could also disrupt delicately balanced ecosystems.

In the case of tuna species, the researchers concluded that “the most efficient way to avoid collapse is to shut down the fisheries until stocks are rebuilt to healthy levels.  Scientific findings should not be discarded in order to maintain short-term profit,” the article went on to say.

So where does this leave PNG?  Well, according to the managing director of the PNG Fisheries Authority, Sylvester Pokajam, four new tuna processing plants will open shortly.

Mr Pokajam claims PNG will be able to sustainably manage its national tuna stocks.  However tuna is a pelagic fish and travels long distances through many different national economic fishing zones.

Hopefully the history of being able to sustainably manage marine resources won’t mimic the history of managing that other sustainable national resource, PNG forests.

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