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CSIRO and international partners are finding ways to trace the provenance of tuna to reduce illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing.

The challenge

Illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing

Tuna fisheries of the Indian Ocean are the second largest in the world. These fisheries are central to economic development and food security of the majority of coastal states.

Southern bluefin tuna beneath the surface of the ocean.

Illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing is one of the greatest threats to sustainable fisheries. IUU fishing currently undermines the flow of economic benefits to coastal states by diverting revenues and labour opportunities through the black economy, with consequent negative impacts on the social and economic fabric of communities. In addition, IUU leads to overfishing of stocks and undermining of management measures resulting in large foregone losses in future yields; compromised traditional monitoring and assessment methods used for assessing the long-term productivity of the resources; and restricted access to valuable export markets.

Our response

Major investment in fish identification techology

Our multi-million dollar strategic investments over the past five years have delivered the technical foundation required to make the large-scale, cost-effective, forensic-grade genotyping required for identification of species, provenance and individuals an operational and economic reality.

Long-term relationships in the region, in particular with Indonesia and the Maldives and partnerships with the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) and the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), have resulted in proof of concept applications for species and provenance of bigeye, yellowfin and skipjack tuna in the north-east Indian Ocean.

The results

Protecting markets and fisheries

As a direct result of these studies and effective international networks, the European Union (EU) and Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) have recently agreed to invest €1.3M in an Indian Ocean wide stock structure project for tuna, billfish and shark stocks. This project will accelerate the development and testing of operational genetic tools for determining provenance and chain of custody of tuna in the Indian Ocean. This will help to protect market share in an increasingly savvy seafood consumer supply chain, and meet import requirements in key seafood markets (EU and USA) to increase returns for fishers from developing nations.

In addition, CSIRO has received funding from the Australian Government Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) to conduct a project to complement the EU/IOTC project. The CSIRO/DFAT project will assist current initiatives to deter and eliminate IUU in the region by providing:

  • detailed understanding of the provenance of tropical tuna stocks in the north-east Indian Ocean
  • operational technical tools to identify and trace the provenance and source of tropical tuna products
  • expert technical advice to governments, industry bodies, international certifiers and relevant regional tuna management organisations (IOTC and the Commission for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna) on the design requirements of Chain of Custody and Catch Documentation Schemes.

Benefits for Australian industry

Reducing IUU in our neighbourhood can help Australian fishing industry exports and domestic sales by reducing unfair competition from unregulated regional industries and mitigating unsustainable impacts on these shared stocks.

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