Full retention in tuna fisheries: Benefits, costs and unintended consequences
Several tuna regional fisheries management organizations (t-RFMOs) have adopted retention requirements for skipjack, bigeye and yellowfin tunas caught by purse seine vessels to reduce discards, create disincentives to catch small fish, and incentivize the development and adoption of more selective technologies. Although retention policies in the t-RFMOs have been limited to target tunas in purse seine fisheries, some have advocated for an expansion of those policies, and t-RFMOs could consider expanding retention policies to a greater number of species and/or to other gear types. This paper discusses the benefits and costs of broader retention policies for purse seine and longline tuna fisheries in the western and central Pacific Ocean (WCPO). Using bycatch data from observers and logbooks from the U.S. purse seine and longline fleets operating in the WCPO, this paper documents the types and magnitude of fish discarded. For the purse seine fishery, this information was used to estimate direct impacts of having to off-load at the initial point of landing in key Pacific Island ports. For the longline fishery, estimates of direct impacts were limited to Honolulu and Pago Pago, American Samoa, the two primary ports where U.S. catch is landed. Expanding retention policies beyond the target tunas and to other gear types would further reduce discarding and possibly provide stronger incentives to develop and use more selective techniques. Beyond impacts to the ecosystem and fisher behavior, adopting broader retention policies may have other implications, and this paper explores those implications on vessels, processors, and communities. In general, as is the case with most direct interventions on fishing operations, there will be both benefits and costs, and the magnitude of those impacts will depend on the scope and extent of any expanded retention policy.