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Fishery chiefs explore market for tuna riches

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By Hardeep Kaur

The potential for yellowfin tuna to be sold for high prices overseas is being investigated on St Helena. But it may mean selling licenses to companies from outside the island.

Adam Wolfe, outgoing director of the St Helena National Trust, has predicted that international sales “could bring staggering wealth to the island.”

He said blue fin tuna caught in Australia and flown to Tokyo the next morning could sell for millions of Japanese yen.

It can cost anywhere between $11.99 – $1240 per pound to buy fresh yellowfin tuna overseas.

Mark Brumbill, an adviser who is involved in developing the future of St Helena’s fishery,  says developments are being looked at for when the island’s airport is open.

They include “export of fresh tuna to European and USA markets.”

Currently the key species being commercialised are bigeye, yellowfin, albacore and skipjack tuna, as well as swordfish, grouper and mackerel, which are plentiful in the waters around the island.

Fishery developments have been attempted in liaison with the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) in the past, according to Les Baldwin, former fisheries manager.

“The fishery development will indeed encompass the future fishing of our seamounts, which may incorporate the selling of licenses to overseas interests,” he said.

“We have tried on numerous occasions to manage the fishing of the sea mounts ourselves, but our best and most recent effort was scuppered by DFID, who disapproved of our financing plan.”

Mark Brumbill was due to lead a discussion on fishing developments at the economic forum  staged by the St Helena Chamber of Commerce on Thursday (7 March 2013).

One of the issues – raised by Adam Wolfe – was the danger of over-fishing once the fishery was heavily commercialised.

Mark said: “St Helena currently has a fleet of ten small day boats catching, dependent on seasonality, yellow fin, big eye and albacore tuna, using predominately pole and line fishing methods.”

The potential for income on a large scale is evident from figures for total fish landings.

Between 1999 and 2008, catches averaged approximately 400 tonnes a year, from a low of 200 tonnes in 1999 to a peak of 670 tonnes in 2005. About two tonnes a weeks is consumed locally.

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