Ocean Partnership for Sustainable Fisheries and Biodiversity Conservation - Models for innovation and reform : Bay of Bengal Project

The Busiest Tuna Port of the World

Posted on October 13 2016

The Marshall Islands capital atoll of Majuro is the world’s busiest tuna transshipment port, a fisheries-related workshop was told this week in Majuro.

As much as 600,000 tons of tuna is now being off-loaded from purse seine fishing boats to carrier vessels a year, Parties to the Nauru Agreement or PNA commercial manager Maurice Brownjohn told a tuna canning training in Majuro earlier this week.

About 1.7 million tons of skipjack tuna is caught in PNA waters annually, accounting for 50 percent of the world’s supply of this type of tuna that is used mainly for canning.

Port Majuro has seen exponential growth of the transshipment industry, with 10-15 carrier vessels in the lagoon throughout the year waiting for purse seiners to off-load their catches, and then return to nearby fishing grounds.

The fisheries department’s 2015 report to parliament issued late last month said the number of tuna transshipments increased by over 40 percent in 2015 compared to 2014, going from 495 to 704. These 704 transshipments involved 444,393 tons of tuna in 2015.

According to Maurice Brownjohn, the volume of tonnage continues to increase and now accounts for nearly one-third of all skipjack caught in PNA waters.

“Majuro is the biggest tuna transshipment port in the world,” he said.

Taiwan flagged fishing vessels accounted for nearly one-third of the transshipments, while United States, Chinese and Marshall Islands registered vessels combined for over half of the 704 transshipments in 2015.

PNA requires that purse seiners retain all fish caught, regardless of size or species, and transship all fish caught in port so fisheries observers can monitor the catches during off-loading to the large carrier vessels. The result of these policies generates a large volume of “by-catch” available that is unsuitable for shipping to off-shore canneries and is instead made available for local fisheries companies to produce fish meal for domestic fish farming or for small-scale canning opportunities.