Pole-and-line tuna fishing is currently considered the most sustainable catching method, although concerns have been expressed about the sustainability of associated bait fisheries. Pole-and-line fishing is mainly small scale, and this sector has some challenges to address if it is to supply the growing world demand for such products.
To meet that objective, the International Pole & Line Foundation (IPNLF) was recently launched with the objective, according to their brochure, ‘to help develop sustainable and equitable pole-and-line fisheries and to increase the market share of sustainably and equitably caught pole-and-line tuna’.
In an ATUNA article, Andrew Bassford, a co-founder of IPNLF, stressed that: ‘It is necessary to ensure that small scale pole-and-line tuna fisheries can access the global market while supplying in a responsible way … Until now there hasn’t been an institution to ensure good co-ordination; there has also been no-one improving bait-fishery management, safety at sea, fuel efficiency and so on. The IPNLF will fill this much needed void. We will bridge the gap between demand and supply and all revenue generated will directly contribute to research and capacity building’. He also specified that the IPNLF’s target market will mainly be canned tuna.
Regarding other initiatives promoting sustainably caught tuna, such as the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) MSC-certified skipjack tuna fishery, using FAD (fish-aggregating device)-free purse-seine vessels to catch only free-school skipjack tuna, the IPNLF representative commented to ATUNA that ‘it’s quite clear there’s not enough pole-and-line to replace purse-seine and I don’t think that’s what it’s all about. But it can certainly sit side-by-side.’
IPNLF is currently active in the Maldives and Indonesia, but will seek to expand its work to other countries including ACP tuna-producing countries like Ghana, Mozambique, Senegal and small island states in the Pacific region. The demand for pole-and-line tuna in Europe is expected to grow, particularly in the UK, The Netherlands, Germany, France, Austria and Nordic countries.
This development may provide ACP countries with more diversified markets to cater for both pole-and-line caught tuna, as well as for (FAD free) purse-seine caught tuna. It needs to be noted, however, that challenges to be met by ACP producers, including small-scale producers of pole-and-line caught tuna, who want to access potentially lucrative EU markets, go beyond those mentioned here (bait-fishery management, safety at sea, fuel efficiency). Currently, the most important challenges to be met are SPS requirements and IUU legislation requirements. A scheme overlooking these aspects will run the risk that some products that are otherwise caught in a sustainable manner will be barred from EU markets.