Noumea, New Caledonia –Staff from the Oceanic Fisheries Programme completed a significant tuna-tagging voyage in late 2017, releasing nearly 28,000 tags in the waters of PNG and Solomon Islands.
The Oceanic Fisheries Programme embarked on the 50 day voyage in September 2017, hoping to tag 20,000 tuna. The crew were able to blow that figure out of the water with a total of 27,780 releases including over 20,000 tags in Solomon Islands waters.
The voyage, led by Fisheries Scientist Bruno Leroy, is part of the ongoing Pacific Tuna Tagging Programme, a Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission project. Beginning in 2006, it is the largest tuna tagging project ever implemented.
Pacific tuna fisheries produce over 60 percent of the world’s tuna, and are an important part of the gross domestic product of most countries in the region. But threats such as overfishing and climate change put this vital natural resource at risk.
The collection of data through tagging will provide valuable information to assess fish abundance, movement and the impact of fishing. This information will help the fisheries commission determine sustainable management practices and conservation measures of tuna in the region.
Tagging allows fisheries scientists to monitor mortality, movement and growth of tagged fish. On this voyage, the fish were caught using the pole-and-line fishing method. This allows the fish to be caught, measured, tagged and released in just a few seconds. Information on each tagged individual including species, length, fish condition and tagging quality is recorded using voice recorders. Some of the fish were over 60cm in length, and their powerful tails could bruise and scratch the fishers as they are caught for tagging.
The data collected from the tags over next months and years will help increase our understanding of tuna fisheries, and the impact of fishing activities on tuna fisheries throughout the Pacific. This data will help inform future sustainable management decisions that will help protect tuna stocks and the people who rely on them.
“The key highlight was obviously the number of tags Bruno and the team released, with additional highlights being the development of new tagging technicians, the amount of biological sampling conducted, without forgetting that these good results would not have been possible without the support and efforts of the vessel crew”, according to Neville Smith, SPC’s Principal Fisheries Scientist.