Kelawalla near threatened by over-fishing

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'Kelawalla' at Negombo Fish Market (c) Malaka Rodrigo

Kelawalla (Yellow-fin Tuna) is going to be re-categorized as a ‘Near Threatened’ fish as per the latest evaluation by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Yellow-fin Tuna is currently at the bottom of 7 level Red List threat categories under ‘Least Concern’ which has the lowest risk of Extinction. But the recent evaluation done by IUCN Red List scombrid and billfish species under the guidance of the Global Marine Species Assessment (GMSA) has elevated Yellowfin’s threat ranks by one level few days back.

World’s commercially target fish are all in the decline mainly due to unsustainable fishing practices. The results of the recent Red List evaluation show that the situation is particularly serious for tunas. Five of the eight species of tuna are in the threatened or Near Threatened IUCN Red List Categories. One of the species – Southern Bluefin Tuna (Thunnus maccoyii) is Critically Endangered while Atlantic Bluefin Tuna (T. thynnus) categorized as Endangered. These two species however do not inhabit our territorial waters; however Indian Ocean Tuna are neither escapes the perils of over-fishing. The Bigeye Tuna (T. obesus) is categorized Vulnerable while Albacore (T. alalunga) and Yellowfin Tuna (Thunnus albacares) are categorized under Near Threatened.

“The latest Red List update also underlines the concerns expressed by Indian Ocean Coastal Countries met inColomboearly this year” commented Dr.Hiran Jayawardene referring to the forum convened by the Indian Ocean Marine Affairs Co-operation (IOMAC). The Indian Ocean Coastal countries highlighted that the need of restricting unsustainable fishing practices employed by Distant Water fishing nations such as European Union, Japan and Taiwan. They use large Purse-seine nets which scoop up all big and small fish of the targeted area. To make the matters worst, they also deploy sophisticated Fish Aggregation Device (FAD) which helps them to monitor fish stocks in different parts of the oceans to catch the maximum yield.

Most of the long-lived economically valuable species are considered threatened and a quota system is introduced to control the catch sustainable in many regions. In the case of Indian Ocean Tuna, the quotas are decided by the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC). IOTC set a Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY) and distribute quotas among fishing nations of the area defining Total Allowable Catch. But these quota systems are also not being followed properly in many cases as it highlights in the case of Atlantic Bluefin Tuna who is now doomed with extinction. Fish experts warn, if sustainable practices are not regulated in this region, the Indian Ocean Tuna too will continue to move to the top ranks of the Extinction categories of Red List.

Another problem delaying the recovery of these fish stocks is that these Tuna fish mature later than short-lived species and their reproductive turnover is longer. As a result, such recovery from population declines takes more time, so IUCN recommends more stringent actions for the Critically Endangered Tunas. “Temporarily shutting down tuna fisheries would only be a part of a much needed recovery programme. In order to prevent illegal fishing, strong deterrents need to be implemented,” says Jean-Christophe Vié, Deputy Director, IUCN’s Global Species Programme. “This new study shows that there is an urgent need for effective management. Scientific findings should not be discarded in order to maintain short-term profit. Marine life and jobs for future generations are both at stake.”

Presently Tuna accounts for more than 42% of Sri Lanka’s total fish catch and 49% of the marine fish catch, amounting to approximately 143,000tons. But like the Atlantic Blue-fin Tuna which has been over fished, the Indian Ocean Tuna species – the Yellow-fin Tuna (Kelawalla), Skipjack (balaya), Big-eye Tuna once common are already started getting rarer due to unsustainable fishing practices. This will also hurt countries likeSri Lanka that exports Tuna, so time has come to look at protecting the Tunas for economic reasons, if not for conservation.

IUCN Red List can be accessed on www.iucnredlist.org. But the information currently on the IUCN Red List for tunas is not the most up-to-date information, where users have to wait until its next update on November 2011. However, those who are interested can view complete Tuna assessments on http://tinyurl.com/6edug2w

‘Aqua Culture is Key to Future Food Security’ – Sri Lanka Fisheries Scientists

Delivering the key note speech of Sri Lanka Association for Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (SAFAR), Prof.Sena de Silva said that Aqua culture or Internal Fishery will be a key to Future food security. He pointed out that all the main commercial marine fish like Tuna will be over fished in next decade, if fishing is done unsustainable way and pointed out that it is wise to look at ways to improve inland fishery.

SAFAR is an organization formed by scientists, academics, technologists, developers, and entrepreneurs to address issues related to the fisheries and aquatic resources and associated ecosystems in Sri Lanka. Established in 1994, SAFAR annually conducts a Scientific Session providing a platform to share the scientific information related to fisheries. Its 17th Annual session was held last month at the NARA auditorium. About 30 scientific papers have been presented during the 2 day sessions under the themeAquatic Resources in a Changing World: Present Trends and Future Strategies”.

The key note speech also highlighted that Aqua culture is also can be done in small scale. Though it is projected as a future strategy to make sure stable fish production, inland fishery too will be full of challenges. It is required to select the correct fish that is not a threat to the native fish and the life cycle of these fish should also be inline with the rainfall patterns which are projected to change with the global climate change. Prof.Sena highlighted need of having more research even on change of seasonality to Aqua culture in the face of Climate Change as rainfall pattern could affect breeding of fish species as well as taking the technology to village level including breeding techinues.

The current president of SAFAR, Dr.Sevvandi Jayakody on her presidential address highlighted a need of a novel approach for conservation of marine resources. Taking the example of lagoons, she said an Anthro-centric (people centric) conservational approach is much more practical than Eco-centric conservation approach. She emphasized people can be rallied for conserving resources by targeting a species of use such as prawns. This concept is known as cultural key stone species and winning the willingness to protect the environment for something used and conserving the entire ecosystem through that approach. Taking the example of Tuna, Dr.Sevvandi explained if the Tuna based export trade collapsed due to unsustainable fishery, even those who make cardboard cartons for Tuna will loose there livelihood. So she pointed out it is more practical to project the need to lobby for sustainable fishery with aim to keep the human interest where the species will anyway be protected on final count.

One of the plenary speakers of scientific session, Dr. Chris O’Brien of Bay of Bengal Large Marine ecosystem (BOBLME) project highlighted that theIndian Oceanis bordered to the most populated nations. This has resulted not only the high resource extraction, but also release of lots of pollutants to the ocean that will adversely affect fish and whole ecosystem.

Note: the following articles published on following link has a mix-up, so please treat the above blog post as the correct one..  http://www.sundaytimes.lk/110710/News/nws_12.html
http://www.sundaytimes.lk/110710/News/nws_50.html

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