JUMPING over the side of an American marine research vessel in mid ocean half way between Australia and Solomon Islands was something different to do, exploring, looking around.
The swim with goggles was about 100 meters and when the longliner hull came into view, a huge cloud of blood was billowing beneath it.
Suddenly it then took just seconds to get on board.
Oceanic shark behaviour was unknown to divers at the time and the warm welcome and help from the longliner crew to come on board was very much appreciated.
A considerable chat followed, the English speaking radio operator saying things that today form evidence that present fisheries science should explain.
The radio operator told that the longliner had just finished pulling in the line, cleaning and stowing the catch, daily procedure.
Specifically he said it was taking two months to fill the ship holds before returning to port to unload. It was 1973.
Eight years later in 1981 while producing another underwater film, John Fairfax, an Australian marine researcher visited the unloading trans-shipment port that same longliners used at Santo, Vanuatu.
The previously crowded dock with several longliners queued to unload as seen in 1973, in 1981 had only one vessel unloading.
A crewman told Mr Fairfax it was now taking four months to fill their vessel and that the port freezer rooms and fish trans-shipment by freighter to Asia was about to close down.
“Time at sea fishing therefore shows the catch rate halved during an eight year period but this is not showing in so called scientific data,” Mr Fairfax said.
“At the time of chatting at sea and also at freeze shipment port it was curiosity driving the questions while making documentary films about marine wildlife, including about the largest fastest bony fish in the sea, giant black marlin.
“The films had nothing to do with the environment or conservation.
“Now in 2014 with the marlin film already been in odyssey, the casually acquired information from 1973 and 1981 forms evidence of substance showing beyond doubt that fishing has changed.
“And reason and evidence now includes recent news the four main species of SW Pacific tuna are now at historically low levels.
“Of absolute importance, the impact and consequences of seafood depletion is still not being officially acknowledged.
“In reality, the social and economic impact of the depletion is not yet being seen. Therefore solutions are not underway and therefore Millennium Development Goals to reduce poverty and hunger are going backwards.
“These days that 1973 longline fleet of over 500 ships in one company fleet alone have gone from the SW Pacific because longlining in the region is no longer viable.
“Four months and more at sea to find and catch a load of fish was likely costing more for fuel and food for the crews, than profit the catch at sea was returning after costs.
“Because of loss of viability and because of human ability, fishery experts turned to pole fishing for tuna.
“But it was not long before tuna stocks further declined and pole fishing lost viability. Fishery experts then turned to age old purse seine net technique, but using massive nets and boats.
“Super seiner vessels were developed to use the massive nets, some nets big enough to cover the entire Sydney Harbour bridge.
“Mexico built 50 but by the time they were completed there were not enough schools of tuna remaining for so many super seiners to catch.
“Super seiners quickly devastated US west coast skipjack and then moved west into central and SW Pacific waters.
“Some supplied the fish processing plant at Eden Australia but eventually that business closed due to lack of fish.
“At Lakes Entrance Australia the entire fish processing plant closed and was dismantled due to lack of the resource.
“That plant had been Australia’s most diversified fish processor. Lakes Entrance-Bass Strait waters had a major squid fishery but that too has collapsed.
“Bass Strait waters had formed a major feeding ground for SW Pacific Ocean fish and marine feeding animals.
“Empirical evidence of serious and general fish depletion includes deals between pole fishing boats and net boats.
“Using live bait the pole boats would attract the smaller remaining schools of smaller fish and then call in a net boat to surround the school of fish and also the pole boat.
“The pole boat would escape the encircling net once the fish moved away from the net opening, before the net closed like a giant purse.
“The big catches did not last long.
“Deals between seiner and net boat are now also now also a thing of the past generally because live baitfish used by pole boats to attract tuna are now also in acutely short in supply.”
In reality, evidence of substance indicates both tuna and baitfish stocks are now seriously and generally devastated due to nutrient pollution proliferating algae that has destroyed baitfish nursery habitat.
Algae is smothering seagrass leaf, reducing essential photosynthesis, killing the leaf. Baitfish are seagrass dependent.
Just ask older people how seagrass used to be long and thick in water around mangroves and how it used to tangle outboard propellers in passages near reef crossings.
Now that seagrass is gone. Baitfish dependent seabirds have also vanished. To where, science does not know.
In Australia the Howard government spent AUD$200 million buying back fishing licenses and turned to development of aquaculture.
However serious and general fish depletion and impact has never been officially admitted and thought out.
Aquaculture industry now sometimes has to import fish to feed their fish. Cost of the end product after feeding and looking after cages tanks and pens is beyond what people in need can afford. Feed and production costs are increasing.
Similar is occurring with agriculture especially that using fish in fertilizer or fishmeal as a protein supplement, especially in feed for pigs and poultry.
Increasing cost of feed is pushing cost of the produce further out of reach of would be consumers.
Not long ago wild fish was free. No production cost.
Meanwhile local fishing by Pacific islanders is continuing where possible to find food to feed individuals and families.
Batteries are being used to hunt fish on reefs at night but batteries and underwater torches cost money. Most islanders lack enough money to buy batteries even for a radio for news and music.
Outboard petrol to find and catch fish and transport fish is generally also unaffordable.
Some islanders contribute what they can to but petrol to travel 2 hours each way to buy condemned and undersized net boat fish.
And those people are truly lucky get that fish, essential protein with important amino acids that human bodies require daily. Omega oil too.
Pacific Islands people used to catch several free yellowfin tuna in one day with custom hook from a hand paddled canoe but not now.
In 2006 an expert island fisherman said he had not seen a yellowfin tuna in the water since 1968.
Traditional fishing and professional modern fishing in the Pacific has changed and there are major social and environment and economic consequences.
There are interesting and challenging worthwhile solutions but incomplete scientific data is not allowing the change to be seen, debated, and solutions mandated.
By EDNAL PALMER