Fisheries Today – Pelagics

In the Western Pacific Region today, tunas and tuna-like species account for over 95% of the landed weight and value of all seafood caught by vessels from Hawaii, American Samoa, Guam and CNMI. Most of this catch comes form the two longline fisheries in Hawaii and American Samoa. A small CNMI longline fleet is emerging.

The US purse seine fishery catches a larger volume of tunas, primarily skipjack and yellowfin tuna. This fishery is managed under an international treaty and is subject to measures developed by the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council when fishing within the US EEZ.

Trolling is practiced throughout the Western Pacific Region, including commercial, recreational and charter fishing. Handlining and pole-and-line fishing are restricted to Hawaii, where these fisheries have contracted substantially, with pole-and-lining being restricted to less than three vessels.

The provisional total WCP–CA tuna catch for 2007 was estimated at 2,396,815 mt, the highest annual catch recorded, and more than 120,000 mt higher the previous record in 2006 (2,273,322 mt). During 2007, the purse seine fishery accounted for an estimated 1,739,859 mt (73% of the total catch, and a record for this fishery), with pole-and-line taking an estimated 214,935 mt (9%), the longline fishery an estimated 232,388 mt (10%), and the remainder (8%) taken by troll gear and a variety of artisanal gears, mostly in eastern Indonesia and the Philippines. The WCP–CA tuna catch (2,396,815 mt) for 2007 represented 84% of the total Pacific Ocean catch of 2,800,740 mt, and 55% of the global tuna catch (the provisional estimate for 2007 is just under 4.4 million mt).

The estimated delivered value of the purse seine tuna catch in the WCPFC area for 2007 is US$2,373 million the highest level since at least 1997. This represents an increase of US$743 million or 43 per cent on the estimated delivered value of the catch in 2006. This increase was driven by a US$680 million (54 per cent) increase in delivered value of the skipjack catch, which is estimated to be worth US$1,249 million in 2007, resulting from a 9 per cent increase in catch and a 42 per cent increase in the composite delivered price. The value of the yellowfin catch also rose to around US$393 million with a rise of 21 per cent in the composite price being offset by an 8 per cent decline in catch.

The estimated delivered value of the longline tuna catch in the WCPFC area for 2007 is US$1,160 million. This represents a decrease of US$103 million on the estimated value of the catch in 2006. The value of the albacore catch decreased significantly by US$78 million (35 per cent) while the value of the bigeye catch increased by US$33 million (5 per cent) and the value of the yellowfin catch declined by $US28 million (6 per cent). The albacore catch was estimated to be worth US$148 million in 2007 with the 35 per cent decline being driven by 27 per cent decrease in the composite price and a 10 per cent decrease in catch. The bigeye catch was estimated to be worth US$668 million with the catch declining 2 per cent and the composite price increasing 7 per cent. The estimated delivered value of the yellowfin catch was at US$422 million as the 7 per cent decline in catch more than offset the 1 per cent rise in the composite price.

The estimated delivered value of the total catch in the WCPFC pole and line fishery for 2007 is US$362 million. This represents a 1 per cent decrease on the estimated value of the catch in 2006 with prices unchanged but catch dropped also by 1 per cent. The estimated delivered value of the skipjack catch in the WCPFC pole and line fishery for 2007 is US$286 million. This represents a similar level on the estimated value of the catch in 2006 with a 1 per cent increase in prices offset by a 1 percent decrease in catch.

Albacore catches in the WCPFC convention area comprise a range of fisheries targeting stocks in the North Pacific and South Pacific. The main US fishery directly targeting albacore is troll fishing, by vessels based along the West Coast of the United States. Some of these vessels have also fished in the South Pacific during the Austral summer. The 2007 troll albacore catch (2,093 mt) was the lowest for nearly 20 years, and mainly due to a reduction in active vessel numbers due to economic conditions and hence a reduction in overall effort. The New Zealand troll fleet (137 vessels caught 1,734 mt in 2007) and USA (6 vessels caught 218 mt 2007) typically account for most of the albacore troll catch, with minor contributions coming from the Canadian, the Cook Islands and French Polynesian fleets. Based on the average price paid at the Pago Pago canneries in 2007, then the value of the South Pacific albacore troll catch was $3.7 million. In the North Pacific, the total troll catch amounted to about 6,200 mt and based on the price for blast froze albacore in 2007, this would be worth $12.4 million.