A new organisation has been launched in a bid to ensure that tuna is caught in a more sustainable manner, while at the same time helping to support those communities that rely on these fish.

The not-for-profit International Pole & Line Foundation (IPNLF) was founded to help rod-and-line fisheries increase the market share of their product. Despite being regarded as the most sustainable method of catching tuna, most rod-and-line fisheries are small scale and are increasingly finding it difficult to survive in an industry that is dominated by heavy industrial fishing. Fishermen, such as those in the small island states in the Indian Ocean and the Asia Pacific region, have seen their local resources diminish and their livelihoods put under immense pressure in recent years.

IPNLF believes these fisheries can be rehabilitated back to health and entire fishing communities strengthened by increasing the market potential of their tuna caught using the traditional pole-and-line method. The Foundation’s view is that this requires minor capital investment and would provide much-needed employment opportunities as pole-and-line fishing is more labour-intensive than large-scale industrial fishing.

Andrew Bassford, IPNLF co-founder, said: “The global market demand for pole-and-line caught tuna is soaring as a direct result of environmental organisations increasing consumer awareness of sustainability issues. Unfortunately, many small fisheries often lack the knowledge and infrastructure to gain access to the global market. Therefore, adequate co-ordination of the market development of sustainable and equitable pole-and-line tuna is not just an opportunity, it has now become a necessity. If there is no proper management determining how the supply can be increased in a sustainable way, the increased demand will surely add to the problem of overcapacity in tuna fisheries.

“Until now there hasn’t been an institution to ensure good co-ordination; there has also been no-one improving bait fishery management, safety at sea, fuel efficiency and soon. The IPNLF will fill this much needed void. We will bridge the gap between demand and supply and all revenue generated will directly contribute to research and capacity building.

IPNLF believes the logical starting points for its work are the Maldives and Indonesia – two extremely important tuna producing regions. The Foundation has already opened a branch office in the Maldives and another will be opened in Indonesia in 2013. It will then expand its work to Brazil, Ghana, Japan, Mexico, Mozambique, Philippines, Senegal, India, USA, southern Europe and small island states in the Pacific region.

The Foundation expects the demand for pole-and-line tuna will continue to grow and will mainly come from the UK, The Netherlands, Germany, France, Switzerland, Austria, Nordic countries and increasingly Australia, New Zealand, Japan and North America, where retailers are progressively committing to switching seafood procurement to more sustainable alternatives.

The commercial benefit for brands and retailers to support IPNLF and pole-and-line fishing is that they will be able to better manage their brand security and development by gaining access to these sustainable tuna resources. IPNLF will help these commercial stakeholders work together with these regions and fishing communities on establishing a product that meets their consumer requirements as well as their own seafood category growth expectations.

And the benefit for the consumer is that they will be given the choice to buy safe, sustainable products that contribute to improving the health of marine ecosystems as well as the livelihoods of struggling fishing communities.

Dr Shiham Adam, the Director General of the Marine Research Centre in the Maldives and one of the founding members of the IPNLF, said: “The Maldives has a long and proud history of fishing for tuna with pole-and-line. Tuna fishing is part and parcel of our lives and this wonderful, natural resource isof huge importance to our economy, but beyond that it is vital to the survival of so many of our fishing communities. It’s a sad fact that our pole-and-line fishermen’s livelihoods are at risk but the International Pole & Line Foundation has identified ways in which we can add value to our traditional catch.

“Having one of the Foundation’s offices here in the Maldives has already given our fishermen and the industry a big lift. There is a lot of work to be done but at last there is hope that long-term viability of our traditional method of fishing can be achieved.

2010 The Scottish White Fish Producers’ Association