Thailand hosts global conference on tuna sustainability


Amid mounting concerns over global fish stocks, the Thai government partnered with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations last week to host the 15th INFOFISH World Tuna Trade Conference in an effort to promote sustainable fishing practices as the Kingdom is home to some of the world’s largest tuna companies and its overall seafood exports are an important part of its economy.

“Although the Thai tuna industry is among the world’s top tuna exporters, there are challenges that the government is committed to addressing such as the need to ensure that tuna and tuna products are of high quality and meet international standards; the need to comply with IUU regulations; and enhancing traceability,’’ said Juadee Pongmaneerat of the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives, who delivered the opening address on behalf of Grisada Boonrach, the Minister of Agriculture.

The biennial conference drew over 600 participants from every corner of the world. The meetings and seminars dealt with the latest developments in the global and regional tuna industries. In addition, it covered a wide range of topics on resources, fisheries management, markets and marketing, products and quality developments, new technology, trade and food safety as well as sustainability, eco-labeling and environmental issues.

Despite alarms raised by some environmental groups over depletion of ocean resources, the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation (ISSF) reported that 78 percent of all tuna caught were from the 23 varieties whose stocks it rates as healthy.  More than half the annual global catch of roughly 5 million tons is of skipjack tuna, which the foundation rates as healthy.

“Globally, 57 percent of the 23 stocks are at a healthy level of abundance, 13 percent are overfished, and 30 percent are at an intermediate level,” the ISSF said in its most recent report.

Jong Jin Kim, Deputy Regional Representative for Asia and the Pacific, of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) said it is clear that sustainability can be achieved only by government and industry working together with science based management.

Thailand’s Juadee said that her government had issued several laws and ordinance, and stepped up enforcement, to battle illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing.