If one only considers the usual suspects when looking to explain tuna fisheries collapse one will fail to identify both the real source of the peril and the promise.
While overfishing practices is surely part of the problem it’s not the root of the tuna crisis. The real tuna crisis is the collapse of West Africa tuna pastures and their loss of carrying capacity as the grass of those pastures, the phytoplankton, has been progressively disappearing for decades.
Around the world as dwindling schools of tuna are barely able to survive on ocean pastures that have become blue deserts overfishing becomes impossible to avoid. We can and must restore ocean tuna pastures to health and abundance!
The peril that faces the Ghana’s and the rest of West Africa tuna fishery has been a long time developing. At the root of the present collapse of the tuna fishery is the very nature of tuna, they are pasture animals. That means that when the tuna ocean pastures are in good condition vast schools of tuna will thrive there, when the pastures become the blue deserts they have become fewer fish can survive or thrive. The collapse of carrying capacity of ocean tuna pastures in all of the oceans of the world is now being reported along with every tuna fishery.
To make matters worse for the tuna as their populations have both declined and spread out in search of remaining healthy pastures bigger and bigger tuna catching ships using incredible technology are chasing the dwindling tuna. As this technological prowess has been applied for some years the ‘catch’ seemed to increase, but it has become clear that has been due to the big tuna ships using everything from satellites, to helicopters, to drones to pursue their prey. The tuna simply don’t have a chance against this high technology assault.
Update 21 May 2016 – EU Joins West Africa Tuna War Paying For Major Fleet: Under a new four-year-deal just announced, 98 EU vessels from 11 Member States will be allowed to fish for shrimp, demersal fish, tuna and small pelagic fish in Mauritania’s Exclusive Economic Zone. In return, the EU will pay Mauritania a financial contribution of €59,125 million per year – €4,125 million of which will go to support the country’s fisheries sector, making it the biggest of all Sustainable Fisheries Partnership Agreements in financial terms.
Sadly nothing in the agreement speaks to working to restore Mauritania’s ocean pastures. The EU’s 98 vessel fleet specified in the agreement compares to the 90+ vessel fleet in neighbouring Sierra Leone that is said by the World Bank to be triple size that would provide for a sustainable fishery there!
Tuna also sing ‘all we are is dust in the wind’
The Atlantic Ocean west of Africa is especially vulnerable to ocean pasture collapse as it is downwind of the Sahel region of Africa. The Sahel has been experiencing dramatic ‘global greening.’ How this affects tuna comes down to simple biology, more grass growing means less dust blowing. It is the vital mineral dust that is needed to sustain ocean tuna pastures in the SE Atlantic which for years now has become increasingly and dramatically reduced.
The cause of this global greening and loss of dustfall for the ocean pastures is the trillion tonnes of CO2 already emitted into the world’s air over the past 100 years of our fossil fuel age. That CO2 is greatly enhancing the growth of dry-land grasses like those of the region in Sub-Saharan Africa. The additional green grass of the Sahel is good news for the land and terrible news for the near-by ocean.
The movie below shows African Dust blowing off the dusty Sahara to the North while Sahel dust has gone missing producing a ‘drought of dust’ that is killing the ocean tuna pastures in the ‘Great Bight’ of West Africa.
Ocean dustfall and phytoplankton net productivity is shown below for all the oceans of the world. Note the only remaining dusted regions are downwind of the Sahara and the Arabian Penninsula!
Atlantic Bigeye, Albacore, And Other Tuna Stocks In Danger
Jennie Lyons, from NOAA Fisheries Public Affairs, said the Atlantic Bigeye tuna is now listed as being in serious trouble. The listing is based on the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas’ (ICCAT) most recent accepted stock assessment that showed fishing mortality rate in 2014 far exceeded the overfishing threshold by 28 percent.
The big commercial tuna fisheries targeting Bigeye Tuna are in Ghana, Senegal, the Canary Islands, Madeira and the Azores off the west coast of Africa. Those large commercial tuna fisheries are experiencing an across the board reduction in tuna stocks of all species.
The International Tuna Commission has stated that South Atlantic Albacore tuna are now at a mere 25% of their historical abundance and populations are collapsing fast.
Concerns are high when it comes to West African fisheries. Ray Hilborn, a US professor of aquatic and fishery sciences sceptical of the broad general reports on declining world fisheries, says good management is the key. “I am worried about some areas of the world, like Africa, but other areas of the world have figured out how to do more effective fishery management.”
Previous studies of world overfishing have also singled out African waters as being on the brink of collapse. A study published in ‘New Scientist’ more than 10 years ago warned about West African waters, where according to US researcher Daniel Pauly, fish stocks already had “crashed by 80 percent.” The waters off West Africa were once among the richest fishing grounds in the world but even at that time they no longer held that title.
With depleting resources along the equatorial West African coast the tuna pasture collapse is also seen in the formerly rich tuna waters off Namibia and Angola where dramatic reductions in fish stocks has created a desperate crisis. The waters off the coast of East Africa fished by Mozambique, Madagascar, and the Seychelles are also suffering.
Not Just West Africa Tuna
Mere Millions of Dollars Will Produce Billions Of Additional Fish
Pastures on land and their grass depend on water, rain that comes in the wind. Man has known he must care for pastures to keep them productive. This care is not a transitory thing it must take place in an ever present manner every year for so long as we hope to share the bounty of thriving sustaining pastures. Humans learned the lesson to care for its pastures ten thousand years ago on land, it is time to take that lesson to sea to offer the same wise pasture management to ocean pastures.
The South Atlantic ocean pastures have been closely monitored for decades and are shown to have been in a state of collapse. Primary productivity as seen in ocean colour satellite and ship board data of chlorophyll reveals they have lost as much as 50% of their carrying capacity. The rapid disappearance of ocean pasture phytoplankton/’grass’ translates into collapse of the primary grazing species which includes tuna.
Ghana and other West Africa Tuna nations can restore their ocean tuna pastures and immediately return those pastures to historic abundance by replenishing vital dust. The methodology and technology is now perfectly proven, safe, sustainable, and best of all very low-cost. In all of the nations tuna vessels are now tied up and left to rust away for lack of fish to catch. If for example just one of the 30 large Namibia tuna vessels now out of work is repurposed to becoming the platform for caring stewardship of Namibia’s ocean pastures they can be returned to health and abundance in a matter of just a few years. Each West African nation needs to dedicate but one single ship to give back to the ocean and restore their ocean tuna pastures.
Tuna are amazingly resilient and productive fish. They respond immediately to finding good pasture upon which to thrive and survive. Healthy well fed tuna will rapidly gain weight and will enter into prime spawning condition within a few months of finding flourishing pastures and good feeding.
Healthy pasture fed tuna will spawn every year at least once and each healthy female may release millions of eggs. The better fed the mother tuna is the greater survival of her young. The tuna grow incredibly fast on good pastures, existing fish will put on weight within months and newly hatched young will become large valuable harvestable fish within 2-3 years.
Proven To Work And Bring Back The Fish
The promise for West Africa Tuna Pastures is not some unproven notion. In 2012 I restored the world first large ocean pasture in the NE Pacific, the Gulf of Alaska. Chartering a large local fishing vessel I took 10 shipmates aboard with me along with a cargo of my prescription mineral dust. In the heart of what was becoming a blue desert where Pacific Salmon reside we replenished the vital mineral dust that had gone missing from that ocean, as it has from Namibia’s South Atlantic ocean. The ocean turned from blue to green and the very next year the fish came back.
In Alaska where a catch of Pink Salmon was expected to be a good year with 50 million five pound Pink Salmon predicted to be caught instead 226 million Pink Salmon were caught. The largest catch in all of history! IT JUST WORKS!
We can and MUST Bring Back The Tuna