Yellowfin tuna (Thunnus albacares). Image copyright Brian Skerry.
|Credit: NOAA Fishwatch via|
|Yellowfin tuna is often called "ahi" from the Hawaiian word for tuna ʻahi.|
In the waters of Kiribati, yellowfin are caught by both purse seine vessels and longline vessels. Kiribati has a small domestic longline fleet, but most yellowfin caught within its territorial waters are landed by vessels from distant water fishing nations (DWFNs). An average of 35,000 metric tons (more than 77-million pounds) of yellowfin are landed annually by all gear types (purse seine, longline, other artisanal methods), with a value of around $28.4 million USD . Though tuna catches contribute only minimally to the Kiribati GDP (because very little tuna is landed or processed in Kiribati), licensing fees paid by DWFNs to fish for yellowfin and other tuna species in Kiribati account for greater than 40 percent of government revenues. Obviously, maintaining healthy populations of yellowfin and other tuna species will be essential for the economy and welfare of the Kiribati people.
Climate change, which is projected to affect the abundance and distribution of yellowfin and many other important commercial species in the Pacific, will be another added stressor that could have negative long-term impact on revenue from tuna fisheries. Current model projections are optimistic for Kiribati, indicating that increasing water temperatures and other factors that go hand-in-hand with climate change are likely to increase the abundance of skipjack and yellowfin in the region.
|Credit National Undersea Research Program via|
However, there is substantial uncertainty around these projections due to the complexity of interactions among climate change variables, so they must be viewed with caution. Closing PIPA to tuna fishing is an important part of Kiribati’s commitment to maintain sustainable tuna fisheries within its territorial waters in the face of inevitable changes in the near future. Implementing the closure, along with other measures to control fishing effort and FAD use, can offset fishing excesses in other areas and some of the changes likely to occur with an increasingly warm ocean.
Learn more about tuna and other species in PIPA:
- An introduction into tuna fisheries in PIPA
- Bigeye tuna
- Fish aggregating devices (FADs) used for catching tuna
- Skipjack tuna
- Learn how historical whaling logs are informing scientists today