Tuna fishing takes place over a vast area, but all have satellite coverage. It is technically simple to monitor the fishing activities from the tuna fleets in the oceans.
In the Western and Central Pacific Ocean is a system in place, which is overseeing the days at sea and the operating area of the tuna purse seine fleet.
In none of the oceans is they’re any form of permanent fishing control at sea. Control is expensive, but there is a solution.
Countries with EEZ where tuna fishing takes place, should join and start a joint effort with just a few faster boats with well-trained crew on board. A third party can perform this on behalf of the governments with a coast guard representative on board.
Monitoring via AIS (Automated Identification System) does happen but is works on VHF-frequencies which are not reaching further than the horizon. Besides this, it is a system which is often switched off during fishing operations to avoid detection by colleagues, competitors or authorities
Most tuna purse seiners do have a VMS (Vessel Monitoring System), but this system reports only to the Flag State the vessel belongs too. The Flag States can analyse this information, but there is no standard reporting to the RFMO’s about their vessel’s whereabouts. Today only a few countries report the VMS-data online, Indonesia, Chile, Panama and Peru.
It is simple to collect the VMS-data from various fleets and process this in a database. With this information, scientists, RFMO’s, countries with an EEZ obtain the information they require.
Foreigners own the majority – by far – of the tuna fishing fleet. The compensation for the use of tuna resources in the EEZ of the developing countries was never high. The compensation in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean changed with the introduction of a Vessel Day Scheme (VDS). Under this scheme, a boat owner needs to pay a fixed amount per calendar day or part thereof, which the tuna purse seiner is not in port (fishing day). Today this can amount to US$ 10.000-12.000 per fishing day, regardless of the vessel catch tuna or not. The amount goes to the Pacific Island to which the EEZ belongs where the tuna purse seiner is fishing.
The number of fishing days is limited so that boat owners will purchase a large part of the required days at the beginning of the year. The Pacific Islands nations set the minimum price for a fishing day. Due to the increased number of tuna purse seiners, there is fierce competition which is driving up the price.
For support vessels, the boat owners need to pay an additional fee per day, which makes the use of support vessels financially not attractive.
For the coastal states, it changed a lot, and they’re interested in what the tuna fleet is doing, as finally, the tuna catch activity is paying off. There is now a control system for VMS which will be applied soon also to the tuna longliners active in Westen & Central Pacific Ocean.
A VDS can be the answer to the question of how to limit fishing effort, exercise better control, getting a better income out of tuna fishing for the coastal states, and at the end, the tuna fleet is paying for the control.