Climate change likely to see tuna move from Pacific territories, warns scientist

by ABC Pacific Beat | 10 December 2019 | News

Yellowfin tuna. Photo: Guido Montaldo/

Republished from ABC Pacific Beat, 9 December 2019

As world leaders gather at COP25 in Spain for the latest round of climate change negotiations, fisheries leaders in the Pacific are voicing their concern that higher global temperatures will deprive the region of its lucrative tuna income. 

Up to US$6 billion worth of tuna was caught in the Western and Central Pacific in 2018 but scientists warn that rising global temperatures will see tuna out move of the waters belong to many Pacific countries by 2050.

Dr Graham Pilling from the Secretariat of the Pacific Community said scientific modelling shows tuna moving eastwards, as a result of warmer temperatures.

“With most EEZ (exclusive economic zones) clustered in the west, as fish move east under climate change, they’ll move out onto high seas,” Dr Pilling said.

Fisheries leaders and experts are meeting in Papua New Guinea at the Western and Central Pacific Commission, where climate change has taken centre stage.

Dr Pilling said countries like Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands would see a reduction of tuna stocks in their waters while Tuvalu would initially benefit.

“In the long term however as surface tuna moves to the east, the main fishing areas are expected to move out of our EEZ,” Tuvalu’s Foreign Minister Minute Alapati Taupo said.

Tuvalu’s Fisheries Minister said leaders should also consider the impact of rising seas levels on national boundaries, with some countries losing land.

“We suggest that the current arrangements are changed to prevent this injustice…this would of course mean that the boundaries of our EEZ are locked in and not changed as a result of climate change,” said Mr Taupo.

The Director General of Forum Fisheries Agency, Dr Manu Tupou-Roosen, said the concerns raised by Tuvalu are part of the work her organisation and regional agencies are working on.

This story was produced in collaboration with reporter Bernadette Carreon.