Knowledge Exchange with the World’s Tuna Fishers

Written by on January 18, 2016 in Fish, Policy & Ocean Law

By Jefferson Murua

Scientist discussing ideas with fishers during the Manta (Ecuador) workshop. Photo courtesy of ISSF.

Scientist discussing ideas with fishers during the Manta (Ecuador) workshop. Photo courtesy of ISSF.

Another year of ISSF Skippers Workshops has come to an end. The involvement of fishers to learn best practices and develop new ideas to reduce bycatch in tuna fisheries continues to grow year by year. In 2015, a record-setting 466 fishers participated in the workshops, and over 70 percent were skippers. This is the largest scale participatory approach initiative between scientist and fishers that we know of. Indeed it is a project of global proportions, aiming to involve the maximum number of fleets to move towards the best fishing practices we currently have. In total 9 key fleets were visited during 2015 covering Europe (Spain, France), Asia (Korea, Indonesia), Africa (Ghana), North America (USA) and South America (Mexico, Peru, and Ecuador). In repeated locations, through sustained interaction, we have built a trustful relationship with these fleets. We see a high degree of voluntary adoption of many of the best practices. This year we have also expanded for the first time to the ports of Sibolga (Indonesia), Mazatlán and Manzanillo (Mexico) and had very positive feedback.

Participants at the ISSF Skipper Workshop of Tema (Ghana). Photo courtesy of ISSF.

Participants at the ISSF Skipper Workshop of Tema (Ghana). Photo courtesy of ISSF.

Well-known benefits of a cooperative approach are better identification of issues, faster results and higher compliance. The adoption of non-entangling FADs by companies of numerous fleets is now a reality, with an array of designs devised by fishers from all oceans. We have also observed a change in the protocols used to release bycatch from deck, with ideas presented in past years such as specially designed nets to release manta rays and large sharks being used by many boats. Even some fishers have designed their own selective grids that work better than the ideas previously presented by scientists. This is the spirit we want to encourage – fishers openly involved in finding the solutions to bycatch.

Unfortunately, not all fishers can be reached through the workshops due to the long periods they spend at sea working. For this reason ISSF has provided tools such as the Skipper Guidebooks or a Skipper Workshop video available in multiple languages to ensure all fishers can access informative materials on best fishing practices. In addition, the Proactive Vessel Register (PVR) is designed to identify vessels that demonstrate the adoption of best practice measures, including boats whose skippers have engaged with any of these tools.

ISSF Skippers Workshop participants at Sibolga (Indonesia). Photo courtesy of ISSF.

ISSF Skippers Workshop participants at Sibolga (Indonesia). Photo courtesy of ISSF.

The final objective is to reduce to a minimum the capture of bycatch. Given the complexity of species aggregations under FADs there is still some way to go as scientists and fishers try to develop better technology and operational methods that ensure avoiding unwanted species. The ISSF Bycatch Committee continues to test some of the most promising selective measures during research cruises with the help of the skippers onboard.

As we begin our next round of workshops in 2016, our intention is to solidify and expand our collaboration with skippers of the principal tuna fishing fleets. Our most sincere thanks go out to the more than 1700 fishers and key stakeholders such as ship-owners, fisheries managers, or scientists who have participated in the Skippers Workshops for their efforts to improve sustainability.

Dr. Jefferson Murua works in the Marine Research Division of Azti-Tecnalia, a non-profit foundation committed to the social and economical development of the marine environment and food sector. Dr. Murua also conducts educational workshops and research on behalf of ISSF.

Copyright © 2016 by Marine Science Today, a publication of Marine Science Today LLC.

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