Fish don’t talk, but if they did they'd be asking the Pacific Tuna Commission just how rare they need to become before anyone will step in to save them." Fish don’t talk, but fishing industry people do… operational level data. FAD ban periods, bigeye measures, endless negotiation in endless side meetings, side meetings of side meetings, arguments and agreements winding up and down in the last few days in the tuna meeting in Samoa. All talk, and no action.

Members of the Western Central Pacific Fisheries Commission, the coastal states, the distant water fishing powers, governments, industry, scientists and NGOs gathered in Samoa to spend the week discussing the  sustainable management of tuna in the Pacific.

According to the science committee’s August stock assessment, the bigeye stock in the Pacific has further dropped down to 16% of the spawning biomass. Bigeye tuna, used mainly for the sashimi market, is overfished. But even with the Bigeye alarm on, there was little progress around measures to help the recovery of the stock. Tuna commission members remain unwilling to agree on strong and effective measures to save Pacific tuna. Some even asked for 3 more years to allow them to provide the operational level data for stock assessment. 3 more years? After 10 years of ignoring thier obligations as members of the commission.

Whether for survival or livelihood, every single person at the meeting relies on tuna. It is the main food source for many Pacific Islanders, of strong economic interest to the distant water fishing fleet, and the source of profit behind the global consumer demand. But the talk we hear is all, exemptions, more boats, failed agreements… Tuna commission members have forgotten the first responsibility of everybody here, is the sustainability of the fisheries.

Or are we at the wrong meeting?

It is a fact, that the amount of fish available is directly related to the health of the ecosystem, and while tuna face increasing threat from the inaction of the people and politicians at this weeks meeting, their very ecosystem is also under threat. As this years meeting comes to a disappointing close, it’s time to talk about a fisheries management based on precautionary principles while at the same time listening to what science tells us about maintaining healthy ocean ecosystems. Otherwise, there’ll be no fish for the next generations.

On the beautiful island of Samoa, in the middle of Pacific, the capital Apia is decorated with fresh new street names. There’s a brand new sign as you approach our convention venue in Samoa, it says ‘Sustainable Street’.

Sustainable Street Samoa

Our biggest fear is that the Commission is missing the turn onto Sustainable Street, the only suitable address for Pacific tuna. The dire stock assement for bigeye tuna should have been a catalyst for this years meeting, and the borderline profitability of Pacific albacore fleets should have warned them of the consequences of inadequate action. But this week these species seem to have been treated as mere pawns in a tuna-grab that the oceans cannot sustain.