World Bank Tuna Plan Blindly Focuses On The Catch Forgets The Habitat

World Bank Tuna Plan Blindly Focuses On The Catch Forgets The Habitat

The World Bank has just submitted it’s 25 year tuna plan to sustain catch and increase value to Pacific Island Nations by $350 million per year.

The ‘old school’ fisheries catch management dogma in the report reads like an old Hollywood western movie where the buffalo hunters and open range cattlemen are the heros and the shepherds and farmers are the villains.

The World Bank kicks through the scuppers the worsening ocean ecological crisis tuna face like unwanted by-catch and ignores the far greater promise, lower cost, and faster methods to restore ocean tuna pastures to historic abundance.

ocean pasture tuna plan cannery photo

South Pacific tuna canneries provide minimum wage jobs for local people. Fiji recently passed the regions first minimum wage law at $2.32/hr. FD which is roughly $1 US per hour just under $50 USD per week!

The World Bank tuna plan just released says changes in governance in the regions Island nations and tuna fisheries might, over the span of 25 years, help Pacific countries earn up to $US344 million annually adding 7,000 – 15,000 jobs by 2040. The report is clearly a ‘go slow’ prescription by western bankers for changes greatly benefitting the sellers/consumers of island nation tuna aimed at sustaining and improving the industry status quo.

Surely the additional millions promised in coming decades producing thousands of low paying jobs will help some islanders but they can do far better far faster by restoring ocean tuna pastures now to historic abundance. The need is there as reports show regional ocean pastures are in peril as this report on Fiji’s Ocean Pastures reveals.

Called ‘The Pacific Possible: Tuna Fisheries report it has been released at a meeting of the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Committee in Port Vila as of 12 May 2016.

large modern tuna ship in tuna plan post

State of the Art Tuna Seiners as large and costing as much as modern warships travel thousands of miles from home ports in western nations use satellites, drones, and helicopters in their pursuit of ever shrinking schools of South Pacific tuna

It outlines a revised political scenario for the year 2040, where tuna fisheries will play a greater role in the region’s economic growth. In it the report offers five policy strategies: more regional integration; efficient fishing practices and catch limits; flexible access and harvest rights for fleets; investment in skills and labour; and the inclusion of coastal communities in fisheries planning.

While these five goals seem to be logical paths but what is missing from the World Bank report is most important of all. There is no mention at all in the report of the perilous ecological crisis presently turning rich ocean tuna pastures into ever bluer ocean deserts. Worse the report eschews any mention, perhaps intentionally boycotting the proven safe, sustainable, low-cost, and immediately effective means of restoring vital ocean pastures to their former condition of health and abundance.

This World Bank plan is not surprising when one considers that South Pacific tuna pastures restored to historic abundance would result in a dramatic and rapid shift in tuna power from the foreign consumers to the regional producers in a space of a few years not multiple decades. Such a plan would ‘rock the boat’ something bankers are rarely in favour.

The waters of South Pacific are home to one of the world’s richest, and last large tuna fisheries, supplying some 34 percent of the world’s tuna catch each year, with an estimated delivered value of US$3.4 billion in 2013. From this take of tuna resources, Pacific Island countries received net economic benefits of approximately US$500 million in 2013 – a figure that the Pacific Possible report suggests could be much greater. To do so it will require the island nations of the region adopting management plans that cater to foreign fleets allowing their sophisticated technology to rule the South Pacific seas.

A Better Regional and National Plan To Return Tuna To Historic Abundance

The Island Nations of the South Pacific ought to decide to become the active caring stewards of their vast ocean tuna pastures and to begin working those pastures a multi-level regional and national pasture industries. The first step in this process is to begin to immediately treating ocean pastures in the same way mankind began treating pastures on land 10,000 years ago. Change the management plans based on the colonial style of the taking of the wild fish resource by foreign ‘takers’ without regard to the productivity of the local fish pastures that support those wild fish populations. Second take on the responsibility of caring shepherding of vital ocean pastures.

buffalo_hunt1 tuna plan

North American buffalo herds were hunted to near extinction as modern machines empowered the taking of countless animals sustained by and sustaining rich wild pastures – click to enlarge

It is an uncontested truth in world agricultural science that large-scale harvesting of animals requires caring stewardship of the pastures on which those animals survive and thrive. The idea that wild herds can be managed exclusively by the management of the numbers taken from wild pastures has been proven folly since time immemorial.

Only with active pasture and range management, shepherding or stewarding, including routine restoration of those pastures and especially care given to pastures in times of drought is it possible to have sustainable healthy herds. The same is most certainly true in our oceans although the concept of ocean pastures and their management in line with pasture management wisdom learned on land is very new to the world.


Atlantic Cod fished into near extinction were protected too late from overexploitation and ocean pasture collapse. Even though the commercial fishery was almost totally stopped in 1989 the Cod have still not recovered after 25+ years. Their ocean pasture unrestored and left on its own is no longer capable of sustaining the vast schools of cod. click to read more

One only look at the terrible story of the Atlantic Cod as an example of the combination of catch management of an important fish resource failing utterly as the Atlantic Cod ocean pasture collapse proceeded not unreported but rather ignored by fisheries managers.

The Cod were not mere fish to be taken by divine right, the fish had a job to do to help sustain their ocean pastures and in turn sustain themselves and their generations. Taking the fish removed the “fish farmers’ who took care of their ocean. The combination of catch based management and nothing given back to keep the cod pastures in good health destroyed the North Atlantic as a fishery. The South Pacific needs to take heed of this terrible lesson learned before it is too late.

The Promise To Tuna

Tuna are remarkable schooling fish, they are very like herds of animal life on land that have roamed the pasture-like savannahs of Africa, the steppes of Asia, or the Great Plains of North America. Great schools of fish and great herds of wildlife actively participate in keeping their pastures healthy. Where the herds have been mindlessly treated like a mere wild resource managed by limits on the number taken the result has inevitably been the ultimate decimation of the herds. Where the management has been based on being good stewards of the pastures and managing the herds based on the health and carrying capacity of those pastures the herds have been sustained and even increased.


click to read more

Restoration and sustained abundance of tuna and other fish at historic levels of abundance will become just as true when Island Nations begin treating their vast ocean territories as valued ocean pastures to be carefully tended by domestic stewards and pasture managers. The tuna pastures of the South Pacific (and other regions) must be immediately tended to, restored, and cared for.

This will require very little money but lots of determination. It will not be a one time effort but each and every year from now until mankind no longer needs fish from their ocean pastures we must be caring stewards of those vital pastures. In return for our becoming good shepherds to our schools of fish they will immediately return to us a vast abundance of healthy food.


In 2012 I undertook the largest ocean pasture restoration project in history. The location was the NE Pacific Salmon Pasture in the Gulf of Alaska. The need was clear as for decades the numbers of salmon returning home from their life at sea was seen to be collapsing. For some species of salmon the collapse was approaching extinction levels for many regions of the North American west coast.


My chartered fishing boat, Ocean Pearl, that in 2012 became the world’s first ocean pasture restoration ship successfully restoring and regenerating a vast ocean pasture in the NE Pacific

I set to sea in the summer of 2012 on a typical fishing vessel, some 125 feet in length, with 10 shipmates. We toiled over the summer to replenish a single boat load of vital mineral dust that the ocean pasture was dying for want of.  The ocean bloomed in a wonderous regeneration of the blue desert into a 50,000 km2 lush ocean pasture of life. Read more about that work and my promise to deliver that ocean life giving technology and methodology around the world here…

The very next year the expected catch in Alaska of Pink Salmon the most numerous of all species of salmon there was forecast to be 50 million fish, it would be a very large catch. Instead when the Pink Salmon that had been resident on their restored ocean pasture returned to Alaskan streams to spawn 226 million were caught, the largest catch in all of history. The story was repeated with other species further down the North American coast. THE FISH CAME BACK.

sitka news salmon story

My 2012 ocean pasture replenishment and restoration work in the NE Pacific returned the ocean to life as seen in the largest catch of salmon in all of history in Alaska the next year. click to read more

Join me and help restore the world’s ocean pastures.