Knowledge for Development

Related developments

How to catch the overfishermen

Big data could help protect stocks of tuna and swordfish that have fallen by 90% since the 1950s. Until now, efforts to stop illegal fishing have been more or less futile. The oceans are vast, and navies and coastguard patrols are small. However, it is now feasible to synthesize information from sources such as radio transponders and satellite observations, in order to track every ocean-going vessel that is, or might be, a fishing boat. Such data can show when a vessel is behaving suspiciously in a prohibited area. They can also link particular vessels with the receiving ships to which they transfer their catches for transport to market. However, this promising use of big data system will work only if governments enforce existing rules. (The Economist, 23/01/2015)


Diversifying the use of tuna to improve food security and public health in Pacific island countries and territories

The large tuna resources of the Western and Central Pacific Ocean are delivering great economic benefits to Pacific Island countries and territories through sale of licences to distant fishing nations and employment in fish processing. However, tuna needs to contribute to Pacific Island societies in another important way – by increasing local access to the fish required for good nutrition to help combat the world’s highest levels of diabetes and obesity. In this study, Johann D. Bell of SPC’s Fisheries, Aquaculture and Marine Ecosystems Division, New Caledonia, and colleagues argue that tuna should also be used to enhance nutrition and diets. They demonstrate that in 2020 and 2035 just 2.1% and 5.9% of the average present-day industrial tuna catch will be required to fill the gap in domestic fish supply. They describe various policies and programmes that promise to increase access to fish for sustaining the health of the Pacific’s growing populations. (Elsevier, Marine Policy, 29/01/2015)See also SPC’s discussion of this study.


Seaweed species may have promising nutritive value for animal feed

A promising opportunity exists for specific seaweed species based on the analysis of the nutritional value. The study carried out by the Centre for Animal Nutrition, Wageningen UR, The Netherlands, assessed the nutritional value of various seaweed species from different locations in Europe and the influence of a bio refinery process on the value of the residue. Results emphasise the importance of adequate selection of species and the need for further work to be confirm the results based on in vivo digestibility and performance studies.   (, 01/10/2014)


The road to sustainable tuna aquaculture

A sustainable and commercially viable aquaculture production for Atlantic Bluefin Tuna is possible based on results of the EU-funded project TRANSDOTT, which was completed in September 2014. The project built on several previous projects, such as the development of a hormone-based method to make fish reproduce in captivity. It also involved scaling up tuna production and making the endeavour economically viable. Some problems needed to be tackled first: to make the aquaculture more sustainable. Fish-based feed was step-by-step replaced by vegetable feed, to overcome cannibalism and to prevent wall collisions due to poor eye-sight. Some experts believe the best course of action for the Bluefin is to reduce the quotas to let the wild populations increase to some approximation of their original size.   (CommNet, 04/07/2014)


Alliance formed to improve ocean policy coordination and action in the Pacific

A new alliance of Pacific Ocean island states, the Pacific Ocean Alliance, plans to contribute to effective ocean policy coordination, coherence and implementation, facilitate regional cooperation for the high seas, support national ocean governance and policy processes. It was launched in September 2014, at the 3rd UN Conference on Small Islands Developing States in Samoa, and will operate under the leadership of the Pacific Islands Forum. The Alliance will also promote integrated decision making at all levels. Key stakeholders include national governments, the private sector, donors, civil society, academic and research institutions, regional and international organisations, and other partners.   (Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, 30/08/2014)


Coral reef winners and losers

Researchers from universities in California, Hawaii and New Hamsphire have analysed contemporary and fossil coral reef ecosystem data sets from two Caribbean locations and from five Indo-Pacific locations. Working together in the working group Tropical Coral Reefs of the Future: Modelling Ecological Outcomes from the Analyses of Current and Historical Trends, they built a trait-based dynamic model to explore ecological performance of coral reef ecosystems in a warmer future. They found a subset of coral species that is fast-growing, phenotypically smaller and wider, and more stress-resistant and that readily produces offspring. Much is still unknown about how this subset functions, but their research reveals a range of nuanced outcomes for tropical reef corals other than near-complete loss of live coral cover in the face of warmer oceans.   (UCSB, 01/10/2014)


Real-time monitoring system for offshore aquacultures

Scientists of the EU-funded project Enviguard are developing a real-time monitoring system for offshore aquacultures, to warn fish and shellfish farmers about impending diseases in time. Applied on a moored buoy, the small device undertakes the same functions as a fully equipped laboratory to detect the presence of toxic microalgae, viruses and chemical contaminants. Three different sensors can allow a simultaneous monitoring of the different threats. With this technology fish farmers can prevent epidemics in their aquacultures.   (Partnership for African Fisheries, 07/10/2014)


Pacific fisheries chief warns that tuna stocks are dangerously low

Fish stocks in the Pacific are so low that some species should no longer be fished. In particular, the survival of the Pacific bluefin and the bigeye tuna are at risk. In an interview with on 3 September 2014, Glenn Hurry, the outgoing director of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) observed that fish stocks have rapidly diminished in the past four years. The situation is not yet unrecoverable, but stocks are at a dangerously low level and worsening, and it is time for tough decisions. Japan's recent plan to propose a 50% cut on catches of young bluefin tuna in the western and central Pacific marks an historic shift aimed at safeguarding the at-risk species.   (, 03/09/2014)


Genetically-improved tilapia strains in Africa: potential benefits and negative impacts

Two genetically improved tilapia strains (GIFT and Akosombo) have been created with Oreochromis niloticus (Nile tilapia), which is native to Africa. In particular, GIFT has been shown to be significantly superior to local African tilapia strains in terms of growth rate. This study, by Yaw B. Ansah and colleagues, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, USA, reviews the history of the GIFT technology, and identifies potential environmental and genetic risks of improved and farmed strains and tilapia in general. The study also estimates the potential economic gains from the introduction of genetically improved strains in Africa, using Ghana as a case country. Employing a combination of the economic-surplus model and Monte Carlo simulation, the study found the mean net present value (NPV) of the introduction of the GIFT strain in Ghana to be approximately 1% of the country’s gross domestic product. It concludes that improvements in management practices and infrastructure could increase the yield and profitability of the local strains even if genetically improved strains are not introduced.   (Sustainability, 26/06/2014)


Farming aquatic animals for global food system resilience

How the current interconnections between the aquaculture, crop, livestock, and fisheries sectors act as an impediment to, or an opportunity for, enhanced resilience in the global food system given increased resource scarcity and climate change are explored in this paper. The researchers, Max Troell of the Beijer Institute of Ecological Economics, Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in Stockholm and colleagues, use an innovative framework called Portfolio theory to analyse how growth in aquaculture and diversifying food production may enhance the ability of the global food system to meet future demands under changing conditions. They found that aquaculture can potentially enhance resilience through improved resource use efficiencies and increased diversification of farmed species, locales of production, and feeding strategies. However, the reliance of aquaculture on terrestrial crops and wild fish for feeds, its dependence on freshwater and land for culture sites, and its broad array of environmental impacts diminish its ability to increase resilience. As demand for high-value fed aquaculture products grows, competition for these crops will also rise, as will the demand for wild fish as feed inputs. Although the diversification of global food production systems that includes aquaculture offers promise for enhanced resilience, such promise will not be realised if government policies fail to provide adequate incentives for resource efficiency, equity, and environmental protection.   (Stockholm Resilience Centre, 21/08/2014)


Monitoring the status of fisheries stocks at the ecosystem level

In this two-part study, FAO focused on determining the status of fish stocks at the ecosystem level taking into consideration the variety of species, their interactions and other factors that cannot be understood by looking at each stock in isolation. Part 1 of the report focuses on determining single-stock status and summarizes the results of simulation testing with four methods that can be applied to data-poor fisheries. Part 2 reports the results of an assessment of ecosystem-level production potentials using satellite-based estimates of primary productivity. This reports complements FAO’s The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture, and is important not just for policy formulation, but also for guiding the fishing industry and its managers to develop effective harvest strategies.   (Rural 21, 22/06/2014)


Review of the Benefits of No-Take Zones

This recent study on the benefits of no-take zones for marine ecosystems and fisheries, by the Wildlife Conservation Society, shows that no-take zones in Belize have not only helped economically valuable species such as lobster, conch and fish to recover from overfishing, but may also help recolonize nearby reef areas. The report, written by Craig Dahlgren of the Caribbean Marine Research Center (CMRC), comprises a systematic review of research literature from no-take areas around the world. The report has been published just before the signatory countries of the Convention on Biological Diversity are required to protect at least 10% of their marine territory.   (Wildlife Conservation Society, 11 July 2014)


New technology for monitoring tuna fishing in the Pacific

New technology for monitoring tuna fishing in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean is being tested on two large Chinese tuna longliners under the Taipei flag. The e-monitoring system uses high-definition video cameras, GPS and a central computer unit to record all events and video footage and with which the information gathered can be analyzed by experienced longline fishing experts and observers. As part of this test, the e-monitoring results will be compared with information collected by two independent fisheries observers who were assigned to each vessel to carry out their regular tasks of observing and recording the catch. The project partners are Tri Marine, National Fisheries Developments (NFD), Yi Man Fishing Company, Satlink, FFA, SPC, Solomon Islands Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources (MFMR) and the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation (ISSF). They presented preliminary findings of this test at the meeting of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission’s annual Scientific Committee to be held in Majuro in August 2014. Implementing e-monitoring technology in all or parts of the Western and Central Pacific Ocean fisheries will require logistical and legal frameworks to be put in place at national and regional levels.    (SPC, July 2014)


Achievements of the 10th Annual Scientific Meeting of the Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism

The Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism (CRFM) h its 10th annual meeting, in St Vincent and the Grenadines in June 2014. They focused on data collection, quality control, data preparation for analysis, and analytical methods. Four specific priority areas were formlulated: (i) improving the quality of regional data for the blackfin tuna; (ii) improving data collection systems to facilitate the implementation of the Sub-regional Fisheries Management Plan for the Eastern Caribbean Flyingfish; (iii) developing a data collection and information system for fisheries which use fish aggregating devices; and (iv) collecting and analysing data on the lionfish. Training of data collectors, improvements in national data collection programmes and stakeholder awareness building on the importance of data collection were other critical areas identified for attention.   (CRFM, 25/06/2014)


Processing sea cucumbers into bêche-de-mer: a manual for Pacific Island fishermen

Steven Purcell of the National Marine Science Centre, Coffs Harbour, Australia has authored this new guidebook to processing sea cucumbers that has just been published by SPC and Southern Cross University. The author has based the guidebook on research funded by the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) aimed at improving the livelihoods of village fishermen in the Pacific. Sea cucumbers fetch high prices if processed correctly and the book gives fishermen easy to follow advice on preparing their harvest properly for the market.   In other news, the environmental website reports (23/06/2014) on the dire state of the sea cucumber populations in Fiji's, and the risk divers take to find them.   (SPC, 19/06/2014)


New fisheries monitoring system unveiled

The Namibia Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources, Bernard Esau has urged all fishing companies that have not yet installed the Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) of the ministry to do so urgently. The VMS, that monitors activities of fishing vessels at sea, was acquired and installed in 2002, but became obsolete over the years and was unable to perform to the ministry’s satisfaction. The ministry then started to explore possibilities of upgrading the system to acceptable international standard and acquired the present system. With the upgraded system the ministry is now able to track all licensed fishing vessels operating both in Namibian, as well as in international waters. The VMS supplements monitoring, control and surveillance through area control and science by way of the mapping of fleet dynamics.  (New Era Namibia, 17/03/2014)  


WECAFC issues recommendations on grouper, snapper and queen conch

The Western Central Atlantic Fishery Commission (WECAFC) adopted management recommendations on queen conch (large-sized sea snails) and spawning aggregations of grouper and snapper at its 15th biennial session in March 2014. To address the decline or disappearance of spawning aggregations of grouper and snapper in the Caribbean, the Commission recommended a regional seasonal closure for all commercial and recreational fishing activities of Nassau grouper (Epinephelus striatus). All identified spawning areas in the region will be closed between 1 December and 31 March, beginning in December 2014. The Commission recommended WECAFC develop a regional plan for the conservation and management of queen conch (Strombus gigas), for adoption by the WECAFC in 2016. The resolutions adopted by the Commission addressed illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, invasive lionfish control, and voluntary guidelines on small-scale fisheries, among others.   (IISD, 31/04/2014)


Sustainable integrated aquaculture development in Sierra Leone

Olapade Olufemi Julius, lecturer in Aquaculture and Fisheries Management at Njala University, Sierra Leone and Regional Coordinator at CORAF/WECARD, describes the recently launched fish-cum-rice, piggery and poultry production project (SIARP) in Sierra Leone. Through the introduction of appropriate technological interventions compatible with grassroots experience, it is hoped that this integrated agriculture and aquaculture technology will sustain judicious and economical use of water, land and other resources. Within such systems, the components in the farm's nutrient cycle are used more efficiently.   (DRUSSA, 24/01/2014)


Managing fisheries from space: Google Earth improves estimates of fishing weirs catches

Dalal Al-Abdulrazzak and Daniel Pauly of the University of British Columbia, Canada, looked at recent technological advances that could help with the monitoring of fishery catches. Statistics submitted by countries to the FAO frequently neglect or under-report the contribution of small-scale fisheries, as well as illegal catches and discards. Trying to tackle this problem, the researchers have used freely available global satellite imagery via Google Earth, to count intertidal fishing weirs off the coast of six countries in the Persian Gulf. Combining the number of weirs with assumptions about daily catches and the length of the fishing season they estimated that the fishing gear contributed to a regional catch is up to six times higher than the officially reported catches. These results provide the first example of fisheries catch estimates from space, and point to the potential for remote-sensing approaches to validate catch statistics in fisheries.    (ICES Journal of Marine Science, 17/09/2014)   


Historical perspectives and recent trends in the coastal Mozambican fishery

Jessica Blythe and colleagues from the University of Victoria, Canada draw on case study research in Mozambique that combines national landings statistics and career history interviews with fish harvesters to generate a historical description of social-ecological interactions within the coastal Mozambican fishery. At the national level, the analysis points toward trends of fishing intensification and decline in targeted species, and it highlights the significant impact of small-scale fisheries on marine stocks. At the local level, fishermen are experiencing changes in fish abundance and distribution and in their physical, social, and cultural environments, and have responded by increasing their fishing effort (with bigger nets and bigger boats). Implication of these findings for future governance point to a need to better understand the socio-ecological drivers of change in fishing behaviour of coastal communities. This research article is part of a special feature of the Ecology and Society journal on The Recent History and Practice of Local Fisheries in a Globalizing World.    (Ecology and Society, 12/2013)