Leakage of fish in ports / by Francisco Blaha

 Not easy this days

Not easy this days

The trade in discards of target species and non-target species between crew onboard unloading/transshipping vessels and segments of the local populace in ports has been occurring since purse seine transshipment began in PIC ports nearly 20 years ago. These activities are termed “leakage” and has been reported in the literature since at least 1995, but has generally not been contained nor have the issues it may generate been addressed

“Leakage” of frozen tuna from industrial operations into the domestic food system has always been significant at canneries and more recently, transshipment points. The emergence of medium-scale tuna longline operations in most Pacific Island countries has resulted in damaged tuna, under-sized tuna, and by-catch being sold on the domestic markets.

 Business in port

Business in port

In many cases the leakage is brought ashore for sale by people engaged in the trade as a full or part-time occupation. In limited situations some of the fish is said to be bartered for sexual or other services onboard.

In the ports where leakage does occur, usually women in small canoes exchange vegetables and other items for sacks of fish alongside the transshipping purse seiners. The fish enters commerce not just in the port surroundings but is also first smoked or cooked in traditional earth ovens and distributed to villages distant from the commercial center.

 Direct community involvement in resource allocation?

Direct community involvement in resource allocation?

The trade seem welcome in the port by those in the community directly involved as an income-generating opportunity from purse seine transshipping. But not always... local fishermen in particular are often concerned about the problems caused by large amounts of fish brought into local markets that can disrupt their own marketing efforts, particularly when that fish is sold at prices below that which they are asking for their own catch.

On balance leakage seems to be considered a benefit to PIC economies, albeit one that requires constant monitoring and sometimes control to minimize adverse impacts.

Since activities surrounding leakage take place in the informal sector, the amounts and value of leakage in some of the PIC ports can only be guessed. Quantifying the pros and cons of leakage is one of the many studies I would not mind doing!

 Accessing the market with a great  smile

Accessing the market with a great  smile

A good analysis of leakage in the key transhipment ports is in a FFA's 2012 report (A Survey of Tuna Transshipment in Pacific Island Countries) by Mike A. McCoy, that besides being a person that knows the pacific as no other, is a great guy!