Live baitfish. (Photo: International Pole & Line Foundation)
New report notes how to limit harmful effects of live baitfish fisheries
Tuesday, May 15, 2012, 04:00 (GMT + 9)
Nonprofit group International Pole & Line Foundation (IPNLF) has released a new report which reviews and synthesizes data on live baitfish fisheries for pole-and-line fishing and recommends ways to reduce harmful impacts.
Tuna fishing using pole-and-line is dependent on the availability of suitable baitfish, or small pelagic fish, released live into ocean waters to attract nearby schools of tuna. Pole-and-line fishing thus involves fishing for baitfish as well as for tuna.
In “Ensuring Sustainability of Livebait Fish,” IPNLF estimates that current live bait requirements for pole-and-line tuna stand at 19,000-48,000 tonnes yearly. As such, potential environmental and social impacts of live baitfish fisheries include a reduced amount of forage available for larger fish, incidental and deliberate capture of juveniles and species targeted by artisanal fisheries, overfishing of live baitfish fisheries and conflict between bait fishers and local communities.
|Tuna Pole and line fisheries catch. (Photo: International Pole & Line Foundation)
The solutions presented by the report are several. Mainly, it posits that additional research is necessary and especially studies which concentrate on the interactions between the live baitfish fishery and local fishing communities, plus those related to baitfish culture and alternative baits.
IPNLF concludes that these research initiatives must be complemented by thorough fisheries management plans in countries that employ pole-and-line fishing techniques; the plans ought to include regular stock assessments, be based on the ecosystem approach and the precautionary principle and be third-party audited regularly – especially for fisheries that want to qualify for export markets interested in sustainable and equitable pole-and-line products.
The group also advises that baitfish management plans include a code of conduct to encourage efficient bait usage; strategies for coordinating deployment of effort; and recommendations for limiting bait capture in areas where local fishing communities rely on bait species for food. In addition, to maximize the chances of long-term compliance and to ensure they are practical and make sense for every locality, management plans should involve effective consultation with local communities working with or affected by baitfish extraction.
Similarly, the nonprofit considers it wise to promote a pole-and-line nation information-sharing network to exchange best practices in efficient and sustainable baitfish usage, and include a skills exchange programme so fishers can visit each other’s nations and share their techniques, technologies and experiences.
As far as farming baitfish, IPNLF cautioned that it is only cost-effective when the bait is carried by the vessel on which it will be used, and thus it is not suited to near shore fisheries in developing nations.
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By Natalia Real