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Ever wondered what tuna tagging is all about and how it works? Here’s a sneak peek into what went behind WWF's efforts to gather much needed data on tuna in the Coral Triangle. Follow handline tuna fishers in the Philippines to learn more about this amazing species!
Also check out these restaurants in Singapore and Hong Kong which have said no to serving shark fin soup.
Meet the tuna
Torpedo-like, built for speed, can accelerate faster than a Porsche, reaching up to 70 Km/h
Can dive down to 1,000m in depth
Able to maintain body temperature above the temperature of ambient seawater
Has a natural camouflage to avoid being seen from above and below
The perfect swimmers--can retract dorsal and pectoral fins into slots to reduce swimming drag
Can weigh up to 450kg
Can change their color--sometimes they can be an iridescent blue, other times just shimmering white
Bluefin larvae have a 1 in 40 million chance of reaching adulthood
Increasingly sought out by consumers, and hence increasingly valuable
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Tuna in the Coral Triangle
Caught, traded, shipped and eaten around the world, tuna is an irreplaceable resource for developed and developing countries globally.
The Coral Triangle is a spawning and nursery ground for southern bluefin, bigeye, yellowfin, skipjack and albacore tunas from the Indian, Southern and Pacific oceans, where most of the world's tuna catch occurs.
The fishing industry is scrambling to supply growing international demand for tuna.
This puts more pressure on heavily-fished stocks, such as yellowfin tuna in the Western and Central and Indian oceans as fleets move in from depleted fishing areas. If the current level of fishing continues or increases, these stocks will collapse.
It is increasingly obvious that too many boats are chasing fewer and fewer fish.
Damaging fishing practices and unsustainable fishing equipment are putting tuna species at risk, and ultimately industry and small fishers will also pay the price.
One potentially devastating tactic involves Fish Aggregating Devices (FAD), floating structures placed by fishers to attract potential catch. When sufficient numbers of fish have aggregated around these FADs, fishing boats move in and hoard in the catch.
The problem is that fish is indiscriminately caught, including fish that have little or no commercial value, or even threatened species such as marine turtles and sharks.
And with every juvenile fish that is caught before it has had a chance to reproduce, the fish population loses an opportunity to replenish itself.
"In early 2012, a 269 Kg tuna was bought for US$736,00 by a restaurant in Japan."
SAVING THE TUNA
There is no shortage of ideas to stop the overexploitation of tuna at sea. But translating these ideas is challenging as there are so many vested interests in the fisheries industry.
One option—among many others—is to turn Fish Aggregating Devices (FADs) into Tourists Aggregating Devices (TADs). The problem with FADs, devices introduced in the 1990s to lure fish to one place for an easier catch, is that they herd in more juveniles than adult fish, leading to the problem described in the previous section.
Rather than bringing in fishing boats, TADs attract tourists seeking the unique experience of swimming with tuna! This activity would generate income for local tourism operators and, most importantly, would be sustainable since no tuna would actually get caught. Such an approach has already worked elsewhere in the world.
Solutions in practice
In the face of large-scale commercial fishing and depleted stocks, the handline tuna fishermen of Lagonoy Bay in the Philippines can still dream of a better life, thanks to institutionalized support for their traditional ways.