New Evidence of Threats to Pacific Tuna Stocks

Press release - 1 October, 2009
New evidence to show the urgent need for marine reserves in the Pacific, as part of a global network of protection, was today presented by Greenpeace to the officials who can make or break the future of tuna in the Pacific.

The Technical Compliance Committee of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) was shown documentation of illegal transshipments and blatant abuses of loopholes in the current regulations governing high seas areas between Pacific island exclusive economic zones (EEZ). All the infringements and destruction can be ended if the Commission members were serious about protecting the Pacific tuna resources. (1) 

"The evidence continues to mount for the urgent need to close all four high seas pockets (2) to all fishing activities," said Duncan Williams, Greenpeace Australia Pacific Oceans Campaigner in Phonapei. "These areas continue to be used as loophole that clearly contributes to illicit fishing activities in the region".

The Greenpeace ship Esperanza also documented the failure of a two-month ban on fish aggregation devices (FADs). Because of the short time frame many FADs were left in the water, continuing to attract and collect fish and other marine life. Some operators simply ignored the ban and others took advantage of unfair exemptions.

"Scientists have advised to totally ban FADs with purse seining in the region and do so for good reason," said Sari Tolvanen, Greenpeace International Oceans Campaigner. "If the WCPFC is serious about protecting the precious tuna stocks of the Pacific, it must close the four high seas pockets, and outside those pockets halve the fishing effort and ban transfers of fish and fuel at sea which facilitates pirate fishing."

Greenpeace is campaigning for a global network of fully protected marine reserves, covering 40% of our oceans. They are essential to ensure clean and healthy oceans and protect marine life from overfishing and habitat destruction. Healthy oceans can also play a vital role in building resilience against the devastating effects of climate change.

Other contacts: Duncan Williams, Greenpeace Australia Pacific Campaigner, in Federated States of Micronesia: +67 999 262 32

Sari Tolvanen, Greenpeace International Oceans Campaigner, in Amsterdam: +31 655 125 480

Notes: (1) In September 2009, Greenpeace expedition and activities in the high seas enclaves of the Western Central Pacific Ocean to monitor the FAD closure period as well as other activities found:

  • Illegal transshipment at sea by Taiwanese vessels authorised to fish in the WCPFC. One of the vessels was authorised to fish in the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) EEZ while the other was on the WCPFC list to operate in the high seas where it accepted an illegal transfer from the FSM licensed vessel, which was not authorised to transship at sea. This again shows the need to close the high seas pockets to all forms of fishing.
  • The bunkering of a non-Commission member state (CCM) flagged tanker vessel with a foreign CCM flagged purse-seine vessel in the high seas pockets of the Convention area. The exemption that allows for non-CCM Bunker and Carriers to operate in the convention area provides a significant loophole that encourages IUU fishing. Together, refuelling at sea and transshipment create a gateway for laundering illegally-caught tuna out of the region.
  • The presence of purse-seine and support vessels in the vicinity of FADs raises the question of illegal FAD fishing during the closure periods.
  • The presence of exempted purse seine vessels fishing around FADs during the high seas closure period, which only sets out to undermine the management and conservation objectives of this measure.

    (2) Map of areas for closure

    (3) Previous evidence of Pacific plunder.
    Defending Our Pacific 2008
    Plundering the Pacific
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