‘El Niño’ Can Impact Tuna Catches in the Pacific

‘El Niño’ Can Impact Tuna Catches in the Pacific

Huge nets reveal fishers’ bountiful haul of tuna (Photo by Nathalie Bering)

Huge nets reveal fishers’ bountiful haul of tuna (Photo by Nathalie Bering)

The “El Niño” weather phenomenon can severely impact tuna catches in Pacific countries and affect food security in the region.

A policy brief from the Secretariat of Pacific Community said the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) affects tuna catches because this weather phenomenon changes the “convergence zone” between the Western Pacific warm pool and the cooler nutrient-rich waters of the eastern equatorial Pacific which is a prime feeding area for tuna.

The features of the tropical Pacific Ocean that influence the distribution and abundance of tuna such as currents, water temperature, dissolved oxygen, and nutrient supply are all expected to change due to the ENSO.

These changes are expected to affect where tuna spawn, the survival and growth of juveniles, and where the adults feed, the paper said.

The paper added that preliminary modeling indicates that tuna are likely to move progressively to the east.

Projected redistribution of tuna further east has implications for the economic benefits derived from industrial fisheries, and for the supply of tuna for food security.

An eastward shift in distribution of tuna would have mixed implications. Contributions from tuna to government revenue should eventually increase for fishing countries in the central and eastern Pacific, and decline for those in the west, as tuna move progressively east.

The paper said several management measures can help reduce the threats to the economic and food security benefits received from tuna.

One way is a “cap and trade provision” that will allow members to receive some level of benefits during ENSO events, regardless of where tuna are concentrated.

Another is a global sourcing provision of an economic partnership agreement with the European Union which can assist countries processing tuna to obtain and export fish at competitive prices.

Conservation and management measures for tuna are also key. These practices include stopping the overfishing of bigeye tuna; preventing overfishing of skipjack, yellowfin, and albacore tuna; and maintaining stocks at healthy levels to make these valuable species more resilient to climate change.

(Story and photo courtesy of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community)


DOWNLOAD: Policy Brief 15: Oceanic Fisheries and Climate Change

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