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China Skipper Workshop to Mitigate Bycatch in Tuna Fisheries

07 April 2016

CHINA - On April 6, the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation (ISSF) will expand its global series of skipper workshops to China for the first time since the Foundation began the unique platform for knowledge exchange in 2009.

The Shanghai workshop is the result of a collaboration between ISSF and the China Overseas Fisheries Association (COFA) and will engage tuna purse seine fishers, crew members and fleet managers in an event that seeks to share best practices for sustainable tuna fishing and mitigate fishing’s impact on the marine ecosystem.

“ISSF skipper workshops have reached more than 900 skippers to date, covering nine fleets in 2015 alone,” said Dr. Victor Restrepo, Vice President of Science at ISSF and chair of its Scientific Advisory Committee.

“With roughly 790 large scale purse seine vessels operating today, we know we are engaging a substantial portion of the purse seine capacity on a global basis. Expanding these workshops to the Chinese fleet is an imperative next step as we work toward the global development and adoption of best practices for bycatch reduction and more in the world’s tuna fisheries.”

“We are pleased to welcome ISSF to Shanghai to help us continue to make improvements to ensure that bycatch is mitigated, that there is better compliance by Chinese tuna fishing fleet on bycatch measures adopted by t-RFMOs, and that tuna stocks remain healthy,” said Zhao Gang of COFA.

Dr. Jefferson Murua, with the Marine Research Division of Azti-Tecnalia, will lead the workshop in Shanghai.

For seven years, ISSF has commissioned scientist presenters to traverse the world in an effort to share best practices with tuna fishers in every port. The outreach focuses on purse seine fisheries, where the use of fish aggregating devices (FADs) is often employed, and emphasizes the importance of maximizing the survival of species.

Particular attention is paid to species like sharks and rays, and reducing waste from small tuna and other fish species.

The workshops are also an important opportunity for scientists to dialogue with fishers about what techniques and tools may be most successfully implemented given the variable dynamics of the world’s tuna fisheries.

These interactions, in turn, help inform ISSF’s bycatch research priorities as ISSF continues to identify and advance sustainable fishing practices. Previous skipper workshops have been held in Panama, Ecuador, Mexico, Spain, Ghana, the Seychelles, Mauritius, Micronesia, the Marshall Islands, USA, Korea, Indonesia, Philippines, American Samoa and more. Additional workshops in 2016 will target the fleets of Indonesia, China, Spain, Ecuador, Ghana, USA and Venezuela.

In addition, all ISSF participating companies – tuna processors and marketers that represent around 75% of the world’s tuna processing capacity – are required to purchase tuna from vessels whose skippers have reviewed these best practices, either by attending a workshop in person or taking advantage of ISSF’s additional skipper outreach materials, specifically ISSF skipper workshop videos or skippers guidebooks, both of which are available in multiple languages. Participating companies are audited against this commitment annually, the results of which are shared in the aggregate in an annual compliance report as part of ISSF’s annual report.

This multi-faceted effort – from on-the-ground workshops to company commitment and compliance auditing and reporting – are part of ISSF’s holistic work to help tuna fisheries make continuous improvements as they edge closer to becoming more robustly sustainable and capable of meeting the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification standard without conditions.

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