By Shinoj Parappurathu, C. Ramachandran, A. Gopalakrishnan
ICAR-Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute, Kochi – 682 018
Email: pshinoj at gmail.com
Across the globe, the need for institutional mechanisms to address risk and uncertainties in the fisheries sector has intensified in the recent times on several counts. First, advancements in technology have resulted in escalation of investments, thereby deepening the economic risks associated with fishing and fisheries; second, climate change and resultant increase in the incidence of extreme weather events pose serious threats to the coastal inhabitants and their livelihood, mainly the fishing community; and third, capture fishing is inherently risky, with over 24,000 fisher folk casualties every year as per the estimates of the International Labour Organization, besides damages to craft and gear. Insurance is one of the widely accepted social safety net tools adopted across the world as an effective instrument for containing and mitigating a wide variety of risks such as asset risks, production and management risks, market risks, personal and health risks. Several variants of insurance products are in vogue in the fisheries sector such as accident insurance to cover the life/disability risks of fishing crew; vessel/ gear (fishing net) insurance to cover the damages incurred to fishing equipment; insurance coverage for coastal assets (houses and other immovable property) of fisher folk; aquaculture insurance to cover damages to crops due to disease incidence or other weather events, and so on. Insurance as a safety net is particularly important in developing coastal economies as they are predominantly small-holder oriented, supporting the livelihoods of a significant number of resource poor coastal inhabitants, for whom shock-absorption mechanisms during difficult times are crucial for survival.
A recent study1 we and our colleagues conducted throws light on the level of adoption of various types of insurance by the fisher folk in the coastal belt of India. The study illustrated that risk financing behavior of Indian fishermen is notably low except in a few areas and that a number of constraints contribute to the prevailing state of affairs.
Based on a primary survey conducted across selected maritime states of India in 2016, an assessment of the adoption of various types of personal/group accident insurance schemes revealed interesting insights. On the positive side, adoption of personal/group accident insurance was fairly high in the states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu, with over 80 per cent of fishermen covered in the former. On the other hand, none of the respondent fishermen were insured in Andhra Pradesh, despite it being a state with a high incidence of extreme weather events. The states of Gujarat and Odisha were no better with only large landing centres well served, leaving out the majority of smaller ones.
The level of adoption of vessel insurance was also not found to be better. Except in the case of large landing centres where influential boat owners’ associations operate their own insurance programs using revolving corpus funds collected from fishermen, the coverage of vessel insurance is hardly satisfactory across the maritime states. Insurance coverage of fishing nets is even worse with most of the fishermen having opted out of it irrespective of region. In the same vein, household asset insurance coverage against unforeseen natural disasters, to which most of the coastal families are routinely exposed, is reported to be minimal.
What are main factors that hold back Indian fishermen from accessing insurance coverage for themselves and their assets? The study indicates that the main factors are lack of awareness of risk management solutions, a low resource base making available risk management options nearly unaffordable, and lack of confidence in claim settlement procedures.
On the part of the insurance industry, besides high risk perception, the dissuading factors are profitability concerns, high chance of moral hazards (e.g., greater risk taking behavior by those insured) and lack of adequate data about disaster risks. As enrollment by fishermen is lower due to the above reasons, the insurance companies have limited options to develop products that are affordable. The private insurance industry seems to have stayed back, citing the low interest of fishermen, poor demand for insurance, low profitability, high risk involved and high moral hazards. The study however emphasizes the need for catching up with rest of the sectors, as the investment stakes in fisheries have gathered weight in recent times.
We, however, are optimistic about the scope for reforming fishery insurance in the country through concerted efforts. In our study, we indicate the need for inculcating a risk financing culture in the coastal areas with the help of social campaigns. Ensuring the participation of grass-roots level organizations (fishery cooperatives/NGOs/boat owner associations/producer associations) as intermediaries or partners for insurance administration would be helpful to strengthen grass root level support services. Micro-level enrollment could be catalyzed by deploying a brigade of rural insurance agents/service providers. Bundling micro-credit with asset/disaster insurance programs is another sensible option to enhance coverage of schemes in areas where self-help groups have an active presence. To enhance affordability of fisher folk to insurance products, flexible options such as payment of premium in installments may be introduced. Another alternative is to bring in the provision of compensating for partial damage of fishing vessels. Presently, this is not on offer. New products in hitherto un-serviced areas like cage culture, seaweed farming and mussel culture could be thought of. The government should strive towards developing adequate dispute settlement mechanisms to address grievances, besides taking measures to increase competition in the insurance sector by incentivizing the entry of new players. Some of the existing unhealthy subsidies may be reallocated towards incentivizing greater insurance coverage. A certain degree of legislative coercion in the form of mandatory insurance coverage in selected enterprises may be also considered to enhance adoption.
Together with governance reforms, technology can play a vital role in improving efficiency, bringing transparency and reducing moral hazards in fishery insurance. Innovative products such as weather-index based insurance schemes are already in force in the agriculture sector, wherein, satellite data and inputs from weather stations are being used to trigger insurance payments in case of occurrence of weather related events. These can be extended to the fisheries sector as well, to increase efficiency and simplify procedures. The inputs from such platforms could be used for compensating damages to coastal assets of fisher folk, marine cages, and other fishery-related infrastructure. Similarly, advanced vessel monitoring systems (VMS), which are presently in the pipeline to be introduced in India, could be used to track the fishing vessels and assess incidents such as mid-sea capsizing and collisions. Such data would be valuable for the insurance companies to verify insurance claims by affected beneficiaries. Further, interactive ICT tools and mobile applications could be leveraged for speedy processing of insurance claims as well as for real-time assessment of damages incurred to fishing vessels and mariculture units in case of calamities. Over and above these, long-lasting efforts to improve the socio-economic conditions and living standards of the fishing community through development programs can complement the greater use of insurance.
1. "What ails fisheries insurance in India? An assessment of issues, challenges and future potential” by Parappurathu, Shinoj, Ramachandran, C., Gopalakrishnan, A., Kumar D., Poddar, M.K., Choudhury, M., Geetha, Koya, M.K., R., Kumar, R.N., Salini, K.P. and Sunil P.V. In Marine Policy (2017) 86: 144-155.
Acknowledgements The authors gratefully acknowledge the financial support obtained from the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (through institute project no. FISHCMFRISIL201202200020) for conducting the study.
AsiaPacific-FishWatch's Sustainability pages for 6 Western and Central Pacific and Indian Ocean tuna species – covering 12 stocks – have been updated. By current assessments, the outlooks, tempered by management measures being taken, show:
These updates owe a big debt to the stock assessment experts and reviewers associated with regional fisheries management and technical organisations (SPC, WCPFC, IOTC, ISC, IATTC and the national body members of committees) and to the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation for its regularly updated overviews of stock status (see the latest Stock Status Report at: https://iss-foundation.org/about-tuna/status-of-the-stocks/).
Victoria Jolland is thanked for pulling together all the information for the 6 species Sustainability and Quick Facts updates.
Photo: Man weighing yellowfin tuna while woman does the recording, General Santos City tuna port. Source: Alita Roxas, Mindanao State University- Iligan Institute of Technology, Philippines and USAID-Oceans project.
We have updated the Sustainability pages in our 6 tuna species profiles in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean and the Indian Ocean. Check out the profile pages to get the current situation.
Once again, a big debt is owed to the stock assessment experts and reviewers associated with regional fisheries management and technical organisations (SPC, WCPFC, IOTC, ISC, IATTC and the national body members of committees) and to the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation for its regularly updated overviews of stock status (see the latest Stock Status Report at: https://iss-foundation.org/about-tuna/status-of-the-stocks/
Photo (above): Workers inspect new cans for tuna at Solomon Islands cannery, c 2009. Photo: Amanda Hamilton.
In recent years, international meetings on managing the Pacific bluefin tuna (Thunnus orientalis) and seafood auctions for this species have sparked headlines, such as those below, advocating urgent action to reduce overfishing or exclaiming at the astronomical prices for a single large fish.
The fishery for Pacific bluefin tuna is in serious trouble, more so than for any other tuna, even the other bluefin tuna stocks (for a summary, see the ISSF Status of the Stocks Report). The wild population of Pacific bluefin tuna is officially overfished, and overfishing is still going on.
Here are some key facts from our Pacific bluefin tuna profile, although much remains to be understood about this species. Please visit the whole profile on this link:
The profiles have been written by Victoria Jollands and peer reviewed by many experts. Information has been drawn from peer reviewed sources which are given for each page of the profile. See Contributors and Reviewers for details and acknowledgements.
Longtail tuna (Thunnus tonggol) is growing in importance on local and international tuna markets.
As a member of the genus Thunnus, longtail tuna is closely related to the main oceanic tunas such as the bluefin tunas, yellowfin, bigeye and albacore tuna. Yet, it has a very different habitat to these species. It lives in coastal and inshore areas, most commonly in depths less than 50 m. It is one of the neritic tunas (neritic: near shore).
AsiaPacific-FishWatch has compiled a profile of longtail tuna. This species is only found in the Indo-West-Pacific region, where catches match those of bigeye and albacore tuna. For landings, the top eight countries are Iran, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Oman, India, Pakistan and Yemen. Given these key countries, not surprisingly, the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission and the Southeast Asian Fisheries Development Center pay more management attention to longtail tuna than does the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission.
Here are some key facts about longtail tuna, although much remains to be discovered about this species:
Find out more about longtail tuna by exploring the pages of our profile - Quick Facts, Sustainability, Production, Supply Chains & Markets, Environment & Climate, and Biology.
The profiles were written by an expert team: Duncan Leadbitter, Shane Griffiths, Demian Willette and Thomas Nugroho, and peer reviewed by many other experts (see: Contributors & Reviewers).
After early planning thanks to support from NOAA's FishWatch and potential regional collaborators, AsiaPacific-FishWatch began by starting to prepare full profiles of the 4 key oceanic tuna species, thanks to a grant from the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation (ISSF). These four pilot species comprising of 9 recognised stocks – skipjack, yellowfin, bigeye and albacore tuna - are nearly complete (see Species). AsiaPacific-FishWatch has not yet ventured into other oceanic tunas such as the temperate bluefins (Southern Bluefin and North Pacific Bluefin) and the more coastal (so called neretic) tunas. The four tuna profiles revealed generic lessons for tackling other species, and highly particular insights into where to find expert knowledge on oceanic tunas in the Indian and Western Pacific oceans. The Indian and Western and Central Pacific ocean tuna fisheries produce nearly three quarters of the world's tuna and competition for the fish is increasing. Even as the tuna profiles were composed and reviewed, the transparency of the sources of tuna information improved greatly. Further improvements still are expected as tuna resources and fishing comes under greater public scrutiny, and civil society environmental and labor advocates become more interested and vocal in the tuna management forums.
One lesson from profiling the four oceanic tuna species is that the species differ from each other in important ways, such as in their preferred ocean habitats, growth rates and markets. We hope that the differences as well as similarities become clearer in you read our authoritative profiles, and that this may help to better inform public discussion over actions to ensure sustainability of the resources and social justice in the supply chains. Our profiles are short summaries, barely the tip of an iceberg of expert knowledge and outstanding knowledge gaps.
A quick guide to knowledge on oceanic tunas
The following short guide is presented to share what we have learned after scoping the knowledge iceberg under the water, to help you see more of the iceberg by diving into the depths of knowledge and to keep up with the knowledge of oceanic tunas as it evolves.
A good place to start is with the Food and Agricultural Organization(FAO) and its species fact sheets (see each tuna species page on AsiaPacific-FishWatch),and this link for the species synopsis book.
The IOTC, SPC and ISSF publish handy tuna and bycatch identification guides. Check these out, including extensive guides from the SPC in distinguishing yellowfin and bigeye tuna in all states of freshness and otherwise:
In the scientific knowledge base, these four ocean tuna species are each recognized as global, well defined species. They are fished throughout their ranges. Thus the most basic biology - species identification, range and distribution - is established. For the purpose of assessing the status of the stocks, however, much more information than basic biology is needed, starting with defining populations or separate stocks that form the basic units for fisheries assessment. As all species are considered "highly migratory," scientific research has studied the patterns of movement for individual fish, using tags.The types of tags used to mark individual fish started as simple individual markers and have now become highly sophisticated with the advent of electronic archival tags to store and track multiple types of fish and ambient environment information. In the meantime, as tagging and other studies such as genetics, growth and reproductive biology started to reveal more and more about the actual spatial structures of populations, tuna stock assessment experts have had to make working approximations on what to consider as stocks. Hence, for the purposes of assessments, 9 stocks are used, consisting of Indian Ocean (IO) and Western and Central Pacific Ocean (WCPO) stocks in the case of skipjack, yellowfin and bigeye, and, in the case of albacore tuna, IO, Southern Pacific Ocean and Northern Pacific Ocean stocks. Finer spatial resolution and divisions by fishing gear are used in all assessments.
Because stock assessment also requires information on the species growth, life cycle and reproduction, the reports of stock assessments are handy sources to look through for such material. The biological basics are usually succinctly summarized out of the primary research literature consisting of detailed research papers in journals, technical reports and conference papers. For Asia-Pacific, we summarize much of the basic biological knowledge in our species profiles, and provide you with the main sources. Here is where to find these key stock assessment reports:
The ISSF Status of Stocks overviews provide assessments for all oceanic tunas, by stock, based on the regional tuna management organisations' assessments and other credible information on fisheries management measures and environmental issues, especially bycatch of each fishing gear type. ISSF also publishes an overview of bycatch issues in its Status of the Stocks reports.
Western and Central Pacific Ocean:
Northern Pacific (for Albacore Tuna fishery of the North Pacific)
Australia shares some of the tuna resources, and also published comprehensive overview of the status of its fish stocks including for bigeye tuna and yellowfin tuna.
For the latest management decisions and up to date documents on the relevant Conservation and Management Measures (CMM), see the following:
Tuna information through the MSC processes
For certified tuna and related fisheries, or those undergoing certification, the Marine Stewardship Council website contains many useful documents. Under the "Track-a-Fishery" tab you will be able to search for fisheries on species, gear, region, etc and find many useful documents from assessment, audits, etc.
The most comprehensive information is in the SPC 2011 book on climate change - Vulnerability of Tropical Pacific Fisheries and Aquaculture to Climate Change.
The biennial INFOFISH World Tuna Trade Conference and Exhibition in Bangkok (21-23 May 2014) is a good time to check the most up-to-date information on the status of tuna stocks, including those of the Western and Central Pacific and Indian oceans.
The International Seafood Sustainability Foundation makes this check easier for us. It commissions its Scientific Advisory Committee to overview analyses of the status of status of stocks in all regional fisheries management bodies, and other experts to check stocks against the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) standards.
For the Western and Central Pacific Ocean (WCPO), skipjack, yellowfin, bigeye and albacore tuna, the status of the stocks are unchanged since the last major update in 2012. Although none of the stocks are currently overfished, concern is expressed for bycatch in certain types of fishing (longline and certain sections of the purse seine fisheries) and the lack of management controls in the equatorial area of the yellowfin fishery and in the bigeye fishery.
In the Indian Ocean, skipack and bigeye status did not change since the last assessments; the yellowfin stock needs reassessment because of recent higher fishing levels; and for albacore the abundance has changed from yellow to green despite that fishing mortality went from yellow to orange. For all stocks, bycatch in purse seine, longline and the large and growing gillnet fisheries is of concern.
Assessment against MSC Standards
The assessments against MSC standards (by experienced assessors) covered the sustainable fish stocks principle (P1) and the effective management principle (P3), but did not do the minimising environmental impact principle (P2). Of the 8 Western and Central Pacific and Indian Ocean stocks assessed, 3 received a passing score on P1, namely WCPO skipjack and Indian Ocean skipjack and yellowfin. Among the regional management organisations, the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission was the most highly rated globally, just ahead of Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission.
Two-thirds of the world’s fish are harvested or farmed in the Asia-Pacific region, yet information on the fish is often difficult to find, piecemeal and confusing. The Asian Fisheries Society and its partners set out to break through this critical information barrier by creating AsiaPacific-FishWatch. “We are bringing together essential and authoritative information on who produces the fish, how they are produced, processed, traded, and eventually end up in the diets of people all around the world,” said the President of the Asian Fisheries Society, Professor Huang (President of Shanghai Ocean University, China). “In this project, we welcome feedback from the public and experts, and collaboration from many partners.”
AsiaPacific-FishWatch (www.asiapacfish.org) is developing profiles of the most important types of fish and shellfish produced in the Asia-Pacific region, covering the seas, rivers, lakes and farms of the western and central Pacific ocean and the Indian ocean. The profiles are comprehensive and cover sustainability, production, supply chains, environment and climate, and biology. The aim is to explain Asia-Pacific fish products for consumers, the general public, fish exporters and importers, development agencies, fisheries managers and scientists.
The project is launching with the profile of the region’s skipjack tuna fisheries (see skipjack), and will soon be followed by profiles of yellowfin, bigeye and albacore tuna that are in the final stages of preparation. The skipjack fisheries are among the largest fisheries in the world. The western and central Pacific skipjack fishery supplies the majority of the fish for the world canned tuna market. Susan Jackson, President of the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation (ISSF) explained: “Skipjack schools make up the last remaining truly robust commercially fished stocks of tuna in the world, and protecting this species is especially vital to the economies of nations in the Asia-Pacific region. In order to build consensus around proactive, sustainable management measures for any species of fish, we must have open-access to the wealth of scientific data that exists. Cataloguing this information also helps us to identify voids, which ultimately promotes improved fishery data collection.”
All information in AsiaPacific-FishWatch is reviewed by the top experts in each commodity and subject. It is non-partisan and does not engage in advocacy. Its content emphasizes information relevant to sustainability and people in the supply chain.
For more information Contact:
Asian Fisheries Society, http://www.asianfisheriessociety.org/
c/o Laboratory Marine Biotechnology, Institute of Bioscience
Universiti Putra Malaysia, 43400 UPM Serdang, Selangor, MALAYSIA
Skipjack (Katsuwonus pelamis, Linnaeus, 1758). Picture: SPC
At the 10th Asian Fisheries and Aquaculture Forum, held from 30 April to 4 May in Yeosu, Korea, I presented a paper on the lessons learned from preparing to soon-to-be released skipjack species profile. The presentation benefited from earlier discussions with Dr Patricia Kailola who undertook most of the preparation of the skipjack profile.
In another welcome addition to the availability of information, the SEAFDEC Aquaculture Department has launched its Institute Repository. With hundreds of papers, books, handbooks, extension manuals, articles and newsletter items reaching back to 1978, this collection is also readily searchable and will be further augmented by pictures, videos, presentations and other products.
AsiaPacific-FishWatch is rising to the challenge of finding information on Asia-Pacific fish species, their fisheries and aquaculture and the people who bring them through the supply chain to our bowls and plates. Much of it is not written down, and even some that is can be difficult to find. Therefore, with great joy, I came across the e-print collection of one of the larger fisheries research institute in the region – the Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research. Here is the e-prints address: http://eprints.cmfri.org.in. Loaded with scans of publications going back to 1948, and up to the present, you can search the more than 8,000 papers by year, author, subject, document type or division. The collection is also indexed in many of the main academic services, including Scientific Commons, Scirus and Google.
At the recently concuded 9th Asian Fisheries and Aquaculture Forum of the Asian Fisheries Society, AsiaPacific-FishWatch was mentioned in the Keynote Address, 'Better Science, Better Fish, Better Life' and presented and discussed in a lively Session of the Forum (see AsiaPacific-FishWatch-9AFAF)