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Ensuring the Sustainability of Livebait Fish

22 June 2012

This report by the International Pole and Line Foundation reviews and synthesises information on live baitfish fisheries for tuna pole-and-line fishing. It explores several elements of live baitfish fishery, including techniques used, locations and ecological characteristics of the key species targeted, baitlish desirability and supply and associated environmental and social impacts. Finally, it makes recommendations to reduce these impacts and to ensure that live baitfish fisheries are as sustainable and equitable as possible.

Pole-and-line fishing offers one of the most environmentally and socially desirable ways of catching tuna.

The method is dependent on the availability of small pelagic fish (baitlish) released live into the sea to attract tuna schools within range of a vessel's fishing gear.

The report estimates that current live bait requirements for pole and-line tuna are between 19,000 and 48,000 tonnes per year, with a mean average of 25,000 tonnes.

It finds that live baitfish fisheries have a number of environmental and social impacts, which together underscore the importance of conducting any expansion of pole-and-line fisheries within defined sustainable limits.

Potential impacts highlighted include a reduction in the amount of forage available for the larger piscivorous species on which susisstence and commercial fisheries depend, incidental and deliberate capture of juveniles and of species targeted by artisanal fisheries, overexploitation of live baitfish fisheries and conflict between bait fishers and local communities or tour Operators.

The report presents several solutions to help mitigate these impacts. It primarily finds that additional research is needed, especially studies that focus on the complex interactions between the live baitfish fishery and the local fishing communities, as well as those related to baitfish culture and other alternative baits.

It concludes that these research initiatives need to be complemented by comprehensive fisheries management plans in pole-and-line nations.

These plans should include regular stock assesments, be based on the ecosystem approach and the precautionary principle, and be third party audited on a regular basis.

Further Reading

You can view the full report by clicking here.

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