Some 80,000 tuna in the Indian Ocean are being tagged as part of a European Union-funded project to preempt the depletion of stocks from overfishing.
Under the Seychelles-based project, which began in June and will cost some $10 million, tuna fish are caught, given plastic tags, then tossed back into the sea.
Fishermen who find tagged fish and hand them over to teams of local scientists across the Indian Ocean region will get a $10 reward — and the fish back.
Project spokeswoman Teresa Athayde told Reuters the study was urgently needed as twenty times more tuna are caught globally today than 50 years ago.
“Over one million tons of tuna are caught and sold annually compared to only 50,000 tons 50 years ago,” she said.
That has fuelled fears among development experts and marine scientists that tuna — and other fish stocks — may disappear altogether.
“We are not going to wait for them to go down before we do this study,” Athayde said.
Athayde said the survey — the first major study of tuna stocks in the region — was being conducted across all countries that border the Indian Ocean including Seychelles, India, Iran, Kenya, Yemen, and Thailand.
Somalia is excepted because of the threat from pirates.
Tuna is a staple food for many poor coastal communities in the Indian Ocean.
“We are talking about countries which are very dependent on fisheries and tuna is a big part of it,” Athayde said.
She added that most tuna in the region were caught by Spanish and French commercial fishing boats.