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Tuna Fisheries and Trade within COMESA

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Document pages: 31 pages

Abstract: Tuna is an important marine resource caught in most oceans. Certain tuna species in some of the existing stocks are already overfished, while others are fully exploited. Various mechanisms such as those stemming from the UNCLOS are in place and efforts to streamline management of the tuna fishery are ongoing. Within the Western Indian Ocean (WIO) where the tuna stock is reported as moderately exploited, fishing fleets of Distant Water Fishing Nations (DWFN) are active. Here, they have deployed better technology, catching and trading more tuna than countries operating a less technical operation. Many of the COMESA members operating in this fishery can be described as having a less technical operation. As a consequence, some COMESA countries operating within the same fishery have little or no exports reported in their trading books. This is despite tuna being among the leading tradable marine fish, representing 8 of the value of internationally traded fish products. This paper first reviews relevant literature relating to the tuna fishery within the WIO region. Next, the paper employs an augmented gravity model in an attempt to determine whether membership in COMESA is likely to imply more internal tuna trade. Data on the export of unprocessed tuna (fresh, chilled and frozen) from various data portals is used for this purpose. The study period considered stretches from 2001 to 2012 and examines exports from 19 countries operating in the WIO. Like the bulk of gravity models in trade literature, our approach employs a number of estimation approaches including the Poisson Pseudo-Maximum Likelihood Estimator as well as the usual OLS. Results show no evidence that COMESA membership means improvements in tuna exports. The analysis suggests several areas that COMESA may take to improve trade among members operating in the WIO tuna fishery. Among them include suggestions for increased investment from locals in the fishery. In addition, suggestions are provided on agreements between fisheries authorities and trade partners, recommendations which may strengthen the bargaining position of COMESA countries and introduce economically viable management decisions and consequently, better trade outcomes.

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