Tuna (1)
Wholesalers survey fresh tuna at the Tsukiji fish market before the New Year's auction in Tokyo January 5, 2013. REUTERS/Toru Hanai

Tuna stocks in the western and central parts of the Pacific Ocean are so low that fishing operations must be suspended to help them recover, the outgoing head of the fisheries management body for that region, said Tuesday. He also reportedly warned that stocks of other fish species in the ocean are being dangerously depleted.

Glen Hurry, head of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission, or WCPFC, said that numbers of tuna stock were at a dangerous level and worsening, according to an Agence France-Presse, or AFP, report. Island nations in the Pacific have long complained of too many fishing boats in the region catching far fewer fish and, in June, decided to hike the fees they charge tuna-fishing boats entering their waters by 33 percent. The WCPFC is based in the Federated States of Micronesia, a small island nation in the North Pacific.

"The Pacific bluefin is I would have thought at the biggest risk, it's at about 3.0 percent of its original spawning biomass, so the amount of adult fish in the water that can spawn ... it's at a pretty dangerous level," Hurry told AFP late Tuesday.

Bigeye tuna stock was below the critical level, which is about 20 percent of its original spawning biomass and fishing of this species must be stopped to allow it to recover, Hurry said, adding that stocks of yellowfin tuna is reportedly below 40 percent of its original biomass.

"Of the big ones -- bigeye and skipjack tuna -- bigeye is about 16 percent of its original spawning biomass, so it's below the limit," Hurry reportedly said.

While welcoming Japan’s plans to cut down fishing of young bluefin tuna by 50 percent in the western and central Pacific Ocean, Hurry said that fish stocks in the Pacific had slowly worsened in the four years he had spent as head of the fisheries commission, which he expects to leave this month, and added that tougher decisions were necessary to stop overfishing and the extinction of fish species.

"We started with one of the best stocks of fish in the world, and we've fished them down," Hurry reportedly said, adding: "And when it comes to the crunch and you've got to make hard decisions about reducing the catch on the stock, it gets really difficult.

"Take a little country like Tuvalu; 50 percent of the income of Tuvalu is the income they get from fishing. If you're going to reduce (its catch) it's going to hurt." Tuvalu is a Polynesian island nation lying halfway between Hawaii and Australia.

Hurry said that, in the future, fishing stocks could recover but as the scarcity of fish make them more valuable, it would become harder to cut back the hauls of smaller countries heavily dependent on the fishing industry.

"They (fish stocks) will bounce back so long as you restrict the fishing pressure on them and we're just increasing it," he said. "It's not looking particularly positive if you keep doing that," Hurry reportedly said.

Parties to the Nauru Agreement, or PNA, a coalition of eight countries, control the waters where half of the world’s stock of skipjack tuna -- the most commonly canned variety -- exists. PNA is set to raise the fees of daily fishing of the “distant water” fleets, the largest of which belong to the countries of Europe, China, South Korea, Japan and Taiwan from $6,000 to $8,000, beginning from Jan. 1 next year, AFP reported.