World’s Largest No-Catch Zone Is Proving Successful As Tuna Population Is Being Restored

China Dialogue Ocean

With the no-fishing zones successfully being put into place, according to new research, these mandates have allowed the number of tuna to be restored, while also boosting the fishing industry at the same time.

Research has proven that the no-fishing zones have helped sedentary marine life like lobsters and coral. Now, scientists from the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa have also shown that for the first time, these orders are working to help migrating fish to journey immensely long distances.

Before, many people thought that there could be no large enough marine protected area (MPA) that could protect a species that was known to travel incredibly long distances, as the tuna does. But as for the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, it not only happens to be four times the size of California, it’s also the world’s biggest no-fishing zone.

As for scientists working on fishing boats near those particular waters, but outside the area, documented 54% more yellowfin tuna that were caught, as well as 12% more bigeye tuna, as well as an 8% increase catch rate for all other species.

Moreover, these no-fishing zones also have huge economic benefits. Globally, the tuna fishing industry generates almost $40 billion a year, while supporting millions of jobs all across the world.

The research team wrote in Nature journal that these amazing and positive results are probably due to the tuna fish being homebodies, which means that they mostly live their entire lives in the same area.

Professor Jennifer Raynor at the University of Wisconsin and co-author of the paper said, “Over the past 30 years, we have learned that tunas do not venture as far away from home as we once thought. The Hawai’ian Islands are a nursery for baby yellowfin tuna, and it turns out that many of these fish stay in the region.”

In addition, the zones also have a cultural impact since yellowfin tuna and bigeye tuna, also known as ‘ahi, have been historically central to Hawai’i’s culture and diet.

Co-author Sarah Medoff, at the Univ. of Hawai’i Mānoa, shared, “Being born and raised in Hawaii, I know how important ʻahi is to the community here. It’s not just something eaten in fancy sushi restaurants, it’s the focal point of family gatherings, weddings, birthdays, graduation ceremonies and New Year’s Eve parties.”

She added, “It’s reassuring to know that the monument is protecting this resource for my own children and for future generations.”

When the Papahānaumokuākea was first created back in 2006 and expanded in 2016, it wasn’t to generate benefits for the local tuna fishery. It was mean to protect the biological and cultural resources that live in its deep blue waters.

The area also happens to be sacred to the Native Hawai’ians that co-manage the monument with both the state and federal government of Hawai’i.

As for Professor Kekuewa Kikiloi from the Kamakakūokalani Center for Hawaiian Studies at the University of Hawaii at Mānoa, who wasn’t involved with the study, explained that the research shows just how important these protected areas of the Pacific Ocean are.

Prof. Kikiloi stated, “This research by Medoff et al. reaffirms the value of large scale marine protected areas in the Pacific. The protections that were fought for by Native Hawai’ians and other stakeholders for Papahānaumokuākea serve to benefit everyone, including fishing interests.”


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