High fuel costs could reduce tuna fishing

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Rising fuel costs may force one third of ocean-going long-line tuna fishing boats across the world to halt operations, an industry group said Thursday.

About 140 boats from Taiwan, China, South Korea, Fiji and elsewhere are already standing idle at port, said Yuichiro Harada, managing director at the Tokyo-based Organisation for the Promotion of Responsible Tuna Fisheries.

“Another 260 boats are considering suspending operations, bringing the total number to about 400” out of 1,174 boats operated by members of the organisation, Harada told AFP.

“The more you operate, the more money you lose” due to high fuel costs, he said, adding that a typical Japanese boat would lose 100,000 yen (970 dollars) in one day of long-line open-ocean fishing.

How long the boats might stay in port for could vary from region to region and depend on whether fuel prices cool, he said.

The organisation groups long-line open-ocean tuna fishing boats from Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, the Philippines, Indonesia, China, Equador, Seychelles, Fiji and Vanuatu. Most operators of such ships worldwide are members.

Long-line open-ocean fishing mostly catches big-eye and yellowfin tunas, mainly for the Japanese market. Fishing of bluefin tuna is restricted amid fears of extinction.

The halt is bound to cause a supply shortage in raw tuna meat used for Japan’s beloved “sashimi” slices, the organisation warned.

While regretting the looming supply shortage, Harada blamed speculative investment for pushing up oil prices.

“It is a very big problem for the food industry that it is affected by speculation,” he said.

Source: AFP