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Sanford's tuna purse seine vessel San Nikunau. (Photo: Stock File)

Sanford assesses quitting the Pacific tuna business

Click on the flag for more information about New Zealand NEW ZEALAND
Thursday, December 11, 2014, 02:40 (GMT + 9)

New Zealand's biggest fishing company Sanford has considered abandoning the Pacific tuna business, since its executives disagree on the way the fishery is being managed.

This likely decision was released after the global discussion failure to achieve sustainable Pacific tuna fishery management at the sector’s meeting in Samoa held by the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC), as it was reported by Stuff.

According to Sanford, WCPFC proved unsuccessful to introduce meaningful changes in the fishery management despite scientific data warning that bigeye tuna numbers in particular were "on the verge of collapse."

"If somebody came along and said 'we want to buy your vessels,' we would sell them immediately," claimed Sanford Fisheries chief executive Volker Kuntzsch.

Sanford has two large purse-seining boats, San Nikunau and San Nanumea, whose operations include some Pacific exclusive economic zones targeting skipjack tuna.

The firm considers its image can be harmed due to the fact that the tuna fishery, part of which is controlled by the WCPFC, is not well managed.

“There are hundreds of subsidised boats chasing diminishing stocks, among which there are 650 Chinese flagged boats, all heavily subsidised by Beijing and state governments,” the firm’s sources informed.

Kuntzsch also considers the bad fishery management is in part the result of the fact that the Pacific countries have changed the way they operate, requiring companies and countries to buy "vessel days" to fish.

"Days are given away sometimes in excess of what should be allowed and there is no knowledge of what is caught on those days," he stressed.

Referring to the future outlook, Kuntzsch forecasts low catch rates, day costs and low tuna prices, which is not worth it for the company.

"In our case it is not lucrative and that is the case with other companies as well as Sanford. It is not a lucrative business at all now," the executive warned.

"So for the time being we are looking at the market to see to identify interested buyers. If people come up that would like to purchase our vessels we would most likely go ahead. If not, we continue fishing and utilising our capacities there," Kuntzsch concluded.

Meanwhile, the firm has already sold one of its purse-seiners to family-run Talley's, which has doubled size of its tuna-catching ability, informed anawatu Standard.

Talley's Nelson division chief executive Tony Hazlett believes this vessel, The Eagle, was a significant investment in the future of the skipjack tuna fishery and for Port Nelson. 

Related articles:

- Fund intended to boost fishing industry in Pacific island nations
- WCPFC11 addresses Pacific bluefin tuna protection
- Sanford achieves higher net profit despite certain challenges

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