The total demise of the tuna,
Could well nigh just be sooner,
If some overfish,
To put your tuna on their dish,
And create just an empty Neptuna.
LIKE MANY OTHER PEOPLE TODAY I’m contemplating a small can of overseas produced tuna to spread on my sandwich for lunch.
That act alone puts me at the top of a food chain that extends far out into the Pacific Ocean. Yet is this the real food chain and, if so, can it be effectively managed?
Let’s examine this part of the food chain as we know it. Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is absorbed by microscopic algae (phytoplankton) in the oceans that are then eaten by plankton.
Plankton are then eaten by small baitfish and sardines. Sardines are then eaten by larger carnivorous fish like tuna.
Tuna are then caught and eaten by humans. But is the food chain actually a food cycle? After all, humans then produce carbon dioxide.
Tuna are pelagic fish that travel vast distances in the world’s oceans. While the fish are mobile, they do tend to stick to fixed migration patterns that roughly equate to the seasons in each hemisphere.
Each ocean (Atlantic, Indian, Pacific) seems to have its own particular varieties of tuna and there are a number of different species.
By far the most desirable species of tuna are Bluefin, then Yellowfin and then species like Skipjack coming in a definite third.
Given that tuna range across many national maritime borders and the open ocean, there can be no defined ownership of this resource.
Nevertheless, the areas where tuna spawn and grow are often within national boundaries and this aspect could be better investigated and policed if there were resources made available and an appropriate national will.
Recent claims that a tuna spawning area in PNG could be affected by the effluent being discharged by some mining companies seem to have been dismissed by authorities.
It goes without saying that all important national food resources should be protected and managed so that the resource is used in a sustainable manner and available for future generations. Yet have the available lessons of the world's tuna fishing up until this time been fully understood and appreciated?
Nations in the South Pacific have previously been so concerned about the sustainability of tuna stocks that they imposed self fishing limits on their national fisheries.
The PNG Fisheries Department previously claimed that they would not allow any increase in tuna fishing until a detailed investigation and research had been carried out on the sustainability of national tuna stocks.
Yet how could any one nation ensure sustainability of tuna resources without a comprehensive international investigation and agreed regional policing?
However who exactly benefits from this dramatic increase? Whose food chain are we actually talking about here? What has caused this sudden interest in PNG tuna? Has PNG conducted the promised investigation into sustainable tuna fishing prior to approving these new tuna canneries and what were the published results?
Does PNG have the available resources and expertise to effectively monitor tuna resources and the ability and national will power to restrict over fishing if fish stocks become severely depleted?
The foreign companies currently building tuna processing plants in PNG to harvest local tuna stocks are there for logical reasons.
Tuna stocks in other parts of the world have been severely depleted and it has been claimed, some species of tuna have been overfished to extinction levels. Could this be the real reason PNG has suddenly become a desirable place to fish for tuna?
It seems a pity to rain on PNG’s parade at a time when employment and the diversification of national export industries are so vital.
Yet amid all the hoopla and hyperbole, it seems awfully apparent that the PNG people may have again been asked to accept short term gain for long term pain?
So is PNG’s food chain really being managed? Perhaps PNG’s new Fisheries Minister or his department might like to elaborate on the methodology being applied?