Maritime academy launches bycatch manual
The bycatch training manual is a first for Fiji where a tertiary institution will introduce such training as previously; seafarers would undergo bycatch training whilst on board a fishing vessel.
Bycatch is the incidental catch of non-target species by offshore fishing vessels. This also includes the unintentional catch of ‘species of special interest’ or endangered and protected species such as turtles, sharks and seabirds by the tuna longliners.
In launching the bycatch training manual, Minister for Fisheries, Semi Koroilavesau highlighted the bycatch manual was a step in the right direction in addressing the issues of bycatch for Fiji and the region.
“For Fiji, the Offshore Fishing Sector has been a driver of Fiji’s fisheries economy with its longline fleet being worth around US $60 million annually. In this regard, the sustainable use of tuna resources has been at the forefront of Fiji’s national and regional quest. While recognising that Fiji is at the end trail of migrating tuna stocks, there is a growing international demand for responsibly harvested tuna,” said Koroilavesau.
Koroilavesau added that not only does the manual provide an accredited training platform for crew members; it also offers the perfect opportunity for fish handlers to contribute to a sustainable fishing environment.
“While the development of a “best approach” to mitigate and avoid capture of unwanted bycatch is a huge progress, the success of this tool requires continuous collaboration between all stakeholders, including fishers, processors, trainers, NGOs and national fisheries agency to name a few.”
“Additionally, with the use of the manual, trainees should be able to identify the animals which are of “special interest” or protected species; explain the current requirements when interaction with protected species occur; explain why protected species get caught during fishing activities; describe what “best practice” in avoiding interaction; use safe handling and release practices; and be able to develop individual Vessel Management Plans,” said Koroilavesau.
WWF Pacific’s Representative, Kesaia Tabunakawai, said that the bycatch training manual will help create awareness for future maritime officers on the importance of minimising to the furthest extent possible the impact fisheries operations may have on endangered and protected species while out at sea.
“Bycatch is an ongoing regional issue which poses a reputational risk to the Fiji offshore fisheries and it is our vision that through the provision of affordable and accessible training for fishing crews on bycatch it is our hope that capacity building and development of professional fisher folks will go a long way to reducing impacts associated with bycatch not only nationally but across the Western and Central Pacific tuna fishery,” said Tabunakawai.
The bycatch training manual will provide the fisheries bycatch component in the current Deck Hand Fishing and Offshore Skipper Fishing Programmes being taught at the academy.
FMA’s Principal Lecturer, Nautical Science, Captain Tevita Robanakadavu highlighted that of the 46 students enrolled for the programmes, 22 are females.
WWF Pacific firmly believes that the bycatch training manual will help enhance the sustainability of the tuna longline fisheries in Fiji.
“Fiji’s Tuna fishery is an important contributor to our economy. In 2015, the value of catch by Fiji’s Tuna fishing fleet was worth approximately US$73m. The sector is estimated to employ approximately 3,800 people. Also, our Tuna fishery has earned international recognition as being the first longline tuna fishery in the world to have been certified sustainable under the Marine Stewardship Council certification for sustainability in 2012 and again in 2018.”
“The MSC certification gives international consumers in markets like Japan, United States of America, New Zealand and Australia and the European Union confidence that the Tuna from Fiji they eat has been sourced from healthy well-managed tuna stocks. This bycatch training manual is a step in the right direction of not only strengthening Fiji but the Pacific region’s tuna fisheries,” Tabunakawai added.
The bycatch manual is made possible through WWF Pacific’s ‘Developing Sustainable and Responsible Tuna Longline Fisheries in Fiji’ project that is funded by New Zealand Aid’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) and coordinated through WWF New Zealand.
“WWF in partnership with FMA, the Fiji Fishing Industry Association and the Ministry of Fisheries has embarked on this three year project, with the generous support of the New Zealand Aid Programme. The project will ensure that Fiji’s tuna sector continues to enhance its reputation as a world leader in sustainable tuna fisheries by enhancing capacity and understanding for bycatch mitigation and contributing to the management of Fiji offshore fisheries which in turn strengthens the contribution of sustainable Tuna fisheries to Fiji’s economy,” added Tabunakawai.
Fiji Offshore Fisheries Bycatch Information:
For Fiji, the majority of the endangered, threatened, and protected species of bycatch caught on longline fishing vessels are sharks.
The Fiji Ministry of Fisheries 2017 Observers’ Report estimates reveal that a total 6,355 shark species interactions were made within the Fiji longline fisheries where 6,312 of shark species were discarded, 17 retained and 27 escaped.
For sea turtles, the 2017 Observers’ Report estimates indicated that a total of 72 sea turtle cases of gear interactions were recorded and of the 72 sea turtles that were interacted, 25 sea turtles were released alive with 47 were landed dead and then discarded. 2016 data recorded a total of 60 cases, with 37 turtles landed dead and discarded.
For sea bird interactions within the Fiji longline fisheries, there were seven seabird interactions observed or reported for 2017. Fiji’s location in the Western and Central and Pacific Ocean (WCPO) makes the issue of seabird bycatch relatively non-existent.