The Oceanic Fisheries Programme

The Oceanic Fisheries Programme (OFP) is part of the Fisheries, Aquaculture and Marine Ecosystems (FAME) Division of SPC, and is the Pacific Community’s regional centre for tuna fisheries research, fishery monitoring, stock assessment and data management. It was established by the 1980 South Pacific Conference (as the Tuna and Billfish Assessment Programme) to continue and expand the work initiated by its predecessor project, the Skipjack Survey and Assessment Programme.

Identifying FAD-fishing

stevenh2015_08_25-sp_brailleTuna purse-seine catches associated with Fish Aggregation Devices (FADs) are typically more diverse than catches set on “free school” tuna, including both smaller target tuna as well a variety of bycatch species that are often discarded.  In response, an annual FAD-fishing moratorium, of several months’ duration and Pacific-wide, has been implemented since 2009.  Despite the moratorium, there remains concern about adherence to FAD-free fishing requirements.  Additionally, seafood producers and consumers seek certification regarding the source of purse seine captured tuna.

Given this background, we became interested in developing a FAD-association verification test.  We have developed a simple technique, based on observer catch sampling, to determine whether a purse seine set is likely to have been associated with a FAD.  Our methodology, which can be easily implemented “in the field”, has a prediction accuracy rate of up to 86%.  Details of the methodology have been published, in Open Access format, in the journal Fisheries Research.

2015 Tuna Stock Assessment Workshop

saw_2015_2 OFP is conducting a week-long Stock Assessment Workshop at SPC headquarters in Noumea from 22 to 27 June 2015.  A total of 26 regional scientists, representing 15 South Pacific countries as well as observers from the Forum Fisheries Agency and University of the South Pacific will participate.  The workshop will be led by OFP’s two National Scientists, Dr. Stephen Brouwer and Dr. Steven Hare.



alis_smOFP-EMA team is embarking again on a new adventure: NECTALIS

NECTALIS is a contraction of NECTON which refers to the aquatic organisms able to actively swim in the water column (contrasted with plankton which passively drifts) and ALIS which is the name of the IRD (French Research Institute for Development) research boat based in Noumea, New Caledonia.

NECTALIS is a joint scientific cruise between SPC and IRD which will study the mid-trophic levels of the pelagic ecosystem: zooplankton and micronekton.


Nectalis 3 starting now: See the logbook of the cruise


See the logbook of the second cruise in November 2011....

See the logbook of the first cruise in August 2011....

Read more about the NECTALIS Project
CP10 tagging cruise collaborates with ISSF and industry to do research on drifting fads

FishIn last August 2014, SPC fisheries scientist Bruno Leroy was in charge for this 25 day cruise that drove the Tongan FV Pacific Sunrise through the waters of American Samoa, Tokelau, Cook Islands and Kiribati-Phoenix Islands. The Central Pacific (CP) tuna tagging cruises were originally designed to tag tuna in areas where pole and line boats could not really work due to the scarcity of live baits and also to increase the releases of tagged bigeye tuna that are rarely caught in the surface fisheries in the western part of the Pacific.

Tuna tissue bank for ecosystem management in the Pacific

FishSince 2001, SPC’s Oceanic Fisheries Programme (OFP) has been coordinating the collection of biological samples of pelagic species from all over the Pacific Islands region on behalf of its member countries.

Initially, this collection was focussed on stomach, muscle and liver samples to understand the trophic structure of the pelagic ecosystem (i.e. who eats who, where, and when); however, this has expanded to include gonads (reproductive organs), otoliths (ear bones), spines and blood, giving the opportunity to study reproduction, age, growth and contaminant concentrations.

SPC Fisheries Newsletter #146

In the Pacific Island region, it is estimated that: 1) coastal fisheries resources provide the primary or secondary source of income for up to 50 per cent of households and 50–90 per cent of the animal-sourced protein consumed; 2) most coastal fish and invertebrate resources – at least all those accessible to coastal communities – are over-exploited or exploited to their limits; and 3) the population of many Pacific Island countries is growing rapidly and consequently the need for proteins is also growing.

There are a few alternative sources of protein: a bigger share of the offshore catch (primarily tuna) by industrial fleets could be reserved for local populations, and production from agriculture and livestock could probably be further developed, at least in high islands. But if coastal fisheries keep declining, these sources will not fill the gap, and they will not make up for the loss of income that coastal fisheries provide to communities.


Purse-seine fish ID cards for Pacific Islands Regional Fisheries Observers (PIRFO)

These identification cards have been produced to help with the identification of fish species encountered by Fisheries Observers while onboard commercial tuna purse seiners that fish in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean (WCPO). The species included in these cards are the ones commonly recorded by observers on tuna purse seine vessels operating in the WCPO. The cards can be easily accessed by observers while working on deck during net hauling and brailing operations to verify and correctly identify fish species. The cards also assist in training observers operating within the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission Convention Area.


Four years of data to enhance our knowledge on bigeye tuna

FishPredominantly west-to-east movements and geographical concentration – the Equatorial Pacific bigeye tuna’s behaviour is gradually revealing its secrets. This and other findings have been reported in a new scientific paper authored by scientists from SPC and the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission, published recently in the journal Fisheries Research.

2013 Tuna Fishery Yearbook now available

The Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) Tuna Fishery Yearbook, which is produced for the WCPFC by the Secretariat of the Pacific Community, presents annual catch estimates in the WCPFC Statistical Area from 1950 to 2013.

The tables of catch statistics cover the main commercial tuna and billfish species caught in the region:albacore (Thunnus alalunga), bigeye (Thunnus obesus), skipjack (Katsuwonus pelamis), yellowfin(Thunnus albacares), black marlin (Makaira indica), blue marlin (Makaira nigricans), striped marlin(Tetrapturus audax) and swordfish (Xiphias gladius). The WCFPC, through their member countries, are now obliged to compile estimates of key shark species, some of which are now covered in the longline fleet tables: blue shark (Prionace glauca), silky shark (Carcharhinus falciformis), oceanic whitetip shark(Carcharhinus longimanus) and mako sharks (Isurus spp.). Catches of other species are not covered explicitly, and discards are not considered.

Tuna Fishery Yearbook 2013

New fish species discovered in the waters of New Caledonia

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

FishWhile on a boat not far from Toombo Reef near Boulari Pass on 11 August 2014, Pierre and William Larue found a small silvery fish floating on the water.

The fish was first given to the IRD (French Institute of Research for Development) and then SPC took over the task of identifying this small hatchetfish from the Sternoptychidae family.

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