Original publication: June 2015
Authors: Megapesca Lda: Ian Goulding, Kim Stobberup
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Pelagic Fisheries and the Canning Industry in Outermost Regions

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Fisheries play an important role in the economies of some of the EU’s Outermost Regions (ORs). The Atlantic and Indian Ocean fisheries for tuna and other large pelagic fish are exploited by five of the EU’s seven ORs; Azores, Madeira, Canary Islands, Reunion and Mayotte. The French Departments in the Antilles and Guiana do not exploit large pelagic resources to any significant extent. There are four species of tunas which are particularly important to the ORs in terms of catch volumes and commercial importance: albacore (Thunnus alalunga), bigeye tuna (Thunnus obesus), skipjack tuna (Katsuwonus pelamis), and yellowfin tuna (Thunnus albacares). Swordfish (Xiphias gladius) is important to European longline fleets operating from Reunion.

Overall, the OR fisheries for large pelagic fish are pursued by around 236 vessels with a GRT of 23 648 (excluding a number of small multi-purpose vessels which pursue occasional seasonal catches), and in recent years these vessels have caught an average of 49 195 tonnes per year of tuna and tuna-like species, valued at EUR 73,2 million. The contribution of the ORs fleets to the EU tuna catches is about 10 % in the Atlantic and 16 % in the case of the Indian Ocean. Overall, this amounts to about 13 % of the EU’s tuna catches, although this was significantly increased when Mayotte, with 5 large purse seiners, became an OR at the start of 2014. The contribution of the ORs to the total large pelagic catches in each region is relatively small, about 4 % in both cases.

In terms of fish processing, the tuna sector is served by 14 processing establishments, 10 of which are directly linked to the tuna canning sector (the others being linked to swordfish preparation in Reunion). However, there are only 6 operating canneries, with the five most significant ones located in the Azores. Other establishments prepare tuna for subsequent canning in the continental EU in the form of frozen tuna. The annual average of raw material inputs for these 14 establishments is estimated to be 28 413 tonnes, about 70 % of which is utilised by the Azores’ establishments. Around 43 % of the raw material is imported in the form of frozen tuna.

There are no economic data on the OR tuna sector to allow a direct assessment of the value-added contribution. In the ORs the fisheries for tuna and other large pelagic fish account for some 650 jobs in fishing and about 1 382 in processing (total 2 032). The data show the high on-shore employment multiplier effect of labour-intensive tuna loining and canning, where most jobs are held by women.

Large pelagic fisheries contribute 0,2 % of the jobs in the ORs (but 1,3 % in the Azores). Fishing for tunas and similar species accounts for about 13 % of the OR fishing employment (although in Azores it accounts for about a third of fisheries-related jobs).

The Outermost Regions’ catches in the Atlantic are most dependent on skipjack tunas (44 % of the catch over 2008 to 2012), closely followed by bigeye tunas (39 %). Catches of the former are highly variable. In the Indian Ocean, yellowfin tuna comprises 62 % of the OR catches, and skipjack tunas 22 %. However, in the Indian Ocean there are no links between the tuna fisheries and the OR fish processing operations. Here, only in Reunion and in relation to swordfish vessels, is there a strong link between the local catches and the processing sector. Variability in the level of tuna catches is therefore of little direct consequence to the Indian Ocean ORs.

A recent independent review of the Regional Fisheries Management Organisation for Atlantic tunas (ICCAT) has found it to be generally  ffective. There are no substantial threats by unsustainable exploitation patterns at present, although yellowfin and bigeye tunas are fully exploited, and there is a need to ensure effective monitoring of catches made by non-contracting parties to ICCAT.

With Indian Ocean stocks, there are concerns since the exploitation of yellowfin tuna exceeds the level recommended by the scientific advice. The SW component of swordfish is also considered to be depleted. Documented weaknesses in the management capacity of the IOTC also need to be addressed, in order to guarantee the long term sustainability of the OR large pelagic fisheries in this region. Other than for swordfish in Reunion, the Indian Ocean OR large pelagic fishery is not closely linked to the economies of the ORs.

No data are available on the use of the EU’s price support mechanism for tuna by the ORs tuna sector under Council Regulation (EC) 104/2000 of 17 December 1999, which dealt with the common organisation of the markets in fishery and aquaculture products.
However, a specific scheme under Council Regulation (EC) No 791/2007 of 21 May 2007, to compensate fishery operators for the additional costs of doing business in the OR, has provided the large pelagic sector with an average of EUR 5.6 million per year (about 40 % of the total allocated for the measures). The subsidies have been effectively utilised, accounting for some 8 % of raw material costs. However, in some years the amounts available were insufficient to meet the demand.

Both of these compensatory measures were repealed at the end of 2014 under the reformed CFP, and replaced by storage aid (until 2019), and new measures for ORs to be designed by Member States using the EMFF instrument. The new measures should benefit OR  arge pelagic processors, especially in Azores and Madeira, by continuing to compensate for the additional costs and providing improved flexibility to address fluctuating supplies from capture fisheries. Because of variability in catch patterns, Member States should be encouraged to adopt flexible measures to deliver effective and efficient compensation for additional costs to tuna sector operators. The EU is recommended to ensure that deficiencies identified in the reviews of the Regional Fisheries Management organisations are addressed in a timely manner, including improved compliance by third countries (both contracting and cooperating noncontracting parties). Council Regulation (EC) No 1005/2008 of 29 September 2008 which established “a Community system to prevent, deter and eliminate illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing” provides adequate tools for this task.

In the longer term, security of tuna supply to the ORs may improve due to extension of their EEZs under the UNCLOS continental shelf provisions. This could be of great benefit to the ORs although not likely to occur in the short term. However, more work is required to assess the potential impacts.

Link to the full study: http://bit.ly/563-378

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