Tuna is caught by fishermen in Fiji using longlines – which can lead to accidental catches of unwanted species. The Fiji albacore and yellowfin tuna fishery is leading the way in reducing by-catch in longline fisheries.
When Fiji’s tuna fishery prepared for its first MSC assessment in 2011, there was a problem with the shark by-catch.
To address this, the wire traces between longline and hook have been replaced with monofilament traces that a a hook shark can bite through.
This change also came with a commitment to improve the information on by-catch by requiring vessels to complete log sheets of all interactions with sharks. Vessels now fish in deeper waters, where they are less likely to encounter some shark species. The fishery also use circle hooks, which have been shown to reduce accidental catch of other species such as sea turtles.
The presence of independent observers on fishing vessels is an important part in good fisheries management. Since gaining MSC certification in 2012, the fishery has substantially increased its levels of observer coverage. In 2017, observers participated in 62% of trips by the fishery’s MSC certified vessels. Electronic monitoring systems have been installed on board with cameras on 50 vessels.
The Fiji Maritime Academy has introduced a training module on by-catch mitigation as part of the Deckhand Fishing and Offshore Skipper Programme. In April 2019, the first students graduated and are now gaining practical at-sea work experience on-board fishing vessels.
At the 2017 UN Ocean Conference, the Fiji Fishing Industry Association committed to have 75% of longline tuna vessels certified. In early 2019, Fiji strengthened its commitment to sustainable fishing through joining the Port State Measures Agreement to prevent and eliminate illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing.
Recent graduates from the Fiji Maritime Academy who are trained in by-catch mitigation techniques. Image: Fiji National University (FNU)