Marine Stewardship Council funds research into bait alternatives to drive progress in sustainable fishing

$90,000 awarded to Tuna Australia to investigate alternative bait use in Australian tuna fishery

Tuna Australia, the industry body for commercial tuna longline fishing, is the first Australian recipient of grant funding from the Marine Stewardship Council’s (MSC) Ocean Stewardship Fund–a fund dedicated to supporting research, innovation, and improvements in sustainable fishing around the world.

The Tuna Australia project will investigate sustainable and alternative bait sources for Australia’s Eastern Tuna and Billfish Fishery.

The fishery’s certification to the MSC Fisheries Standard in August 2020 included a condition on the use of Argentine shortfin squid as bait.

These squid are widely used in global tuna longline fisheries due to their shape, size, longevity and attraction to all pelagic (mid-water) species. However, the squid is becoming increasingly difficult to source for sustainable fishing.

New pressures on these squid stocks mean that MSC tuna fisheries may have to look for alternative sources of bait with stronger sustainability credentials.

‘A fantastic opportunity’

Tuna Australia will explore alternative bait sources, including other squid species, and artificial bait solutions that mimic the size, shape, texture, taste and movement of natural bait.

“The MSC funding provides Tuna Australia with a fantastic opportunity to work in an innovative space to add additional sustainability layers,” said Tuna Australia Program Manager Phil Ravanello.

“This grant opportunity allows Tuna Australia to take a holistic look at bait usage, what alternatives are out there, and the potential benefits of an artificial bait solution that could help to reduce natural bait use of our longline fleet.

If we can substitute part of the current bait regime for an alternative bait that work just as well, there will be sustainability improvements and potential cost savings to industry.”

Bill Holden, MSC Senior Tuna Fisheries Outreach Manager (R), presents an Ocean Stewardship Fund certificate to Phil Ravanello, Tuna Australia Program Manager (L), in Mooloolaba, Queensland.

Tuna Australia is one of 20 global recipients of Ocean Stewardship Fund grants from the MSC in 2021.

This year’s grants include support for improving fishery observer safety, and reducing bycatch–a major cause of ocean biodiversity depletion. Six grants are supporting fishery improvement projects in the Global South, including the deep-sea shrimp trawl fishery in Kerala, India and the blue swimmer crab fisheries, squid fisheries and snapper and grouper fisheries in Indonesia.

‘Driving innovation’

The MSC established the Ocean Stewardship Fund in 2018 to spark initiatives that will deliver real improvements in the way our oceans are being fished.

“Congratulations to Tuna Australia, and to all the 2021 awardees of the Ocean Stewardship Fund,” said Marine Stewardship Council’s Oceania Program Director, Anne Gabriel.

“The knowledge generated by Tuna Australia’s research will be of direct value to Australia’s Eastern Tuna and Billfish Fishery. We hope it will also lead to further adoption and scaling of solutions to help tuna fisheries around the world to progress on their pathway to sustainability.”

The Ocean Stewardship Fund’s focus on collaborative projects is driving innovation and creativity, said Gabriel.

Our collective efforts can help to ensure our oceans remain productive and resilient in the face of the growing pressures and demands placed on them.

“Much more still needs to be done, and urgently, if we are to deliver the UN Sustainable Development Goals by 2030,” she said.

Since 2019, the Ocean Stewardship Fund has awarded 35 grants totalling more than $2 million and the MSC hopes the impact of those projects will contribute to the delivery of the UN Sustainable Development Goal 14, Life Below Water.

For more information about the Ocean Stewardship Fund, including previous grant awards, please visit: www.msc.org/oceanstewardshipfund

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