Fish Companies Push Hard to Halt Tuna Collapse

By Stephen Leahy*

VICTORIA, Seychelles, Feb 8, 2010 (IPS)

In the Seychelles’ only cannery, the din of thousands of empty tuna cans rattling on narrow metal troughs is incredible as they bustle along, soon to be filled with Skipjack tuna that only days ago were swimming freely in the inky blue Indian Ocean.

At one end of the Indian Ocean Tuna Limited processing plant – the world’s second largest – cranes offload nets full of frozen tuna from huge international fishing boats called purse seiners while at the other end of the plant, 5,000 cans of tuna roll off the line every minute.

That’s a lot of tuna – roughly 400 metric tonnes a day. Can the Indian Ocean tuna bounty, which amounts to more than 20 percent of the world’s tuna, be sustained?

That was the key question at the first-ever Seychelles Tuna Conference that ended last weekend. It brought together nearly 200 scientists, fishers, environmentalists and policy makers here in Victoria, Africa’s smallest capital city, located 1,800 km east of Somalia and practically in the middle of the Indian Ocean.

“The boats are much more efficient today and the tuna stocks are declining and there is much less tuna than before, ” said Alain Fonteneau, a scientist with the L’Institut de recherche pour le développement, in Montpellier, France, who opened the conference. Continue reading