Failure of tuna rescue package bad news for the Pacific says Greenpeace

Press release - December 13, 2010
The world’s industrial fishing fleets will continue to plunder vital tuna resources from the Pacific following the rejection of a rescue package to halt the decline of tuna stocks, says Greenpeace.

A number of measures which would have addressed the tuna decline in the Pacific, while clamping down on pirate fishing and halting the loss of biodiversity in the region, were rejected by the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) meeting which finished, in Hawaii, last night (NZ time).

A group of Pacific Island countries, known as PNA (1), supported by New Zealand and Australia, had proposed an historic measure that would have seen four pockets of international waters, flanking their borders, closed to all tuna purse seine fishing. This was rejected by South Korea and the EU.

Greenpeace New Zealand Oceans Campaigner Karli Thomas says the result is an insult to Pacific Island marine conservation efforts as it allow industrial fleets to roam the Pacific with few regulations.

“For the Pacific region’s people, no fish means no future. Governments at this meeting had a responsibility to stop foreign fleets from taking food from the plates of the Pacific people by agreeing measures to protect the region’s food security and economy, not just the profits of the industrial fishing industry, “ she says.

The Pacific used to have the world's last healthy tuna fisheries, but stocks of yellowfin and bigeye tuna are now in serious trouble. Last year scientists advised that fishing pressure needed to be cut by up to 50 per cent to allow bigeye numbers to recover.

Earlier this year PNA countries agreed to reduce tuna fishing in their waters by 30 per cent and to close off 4.5 million square kilometres of international waters to purse seine fishing vessels that also wanted to fish in their national waters.

“By rejecting the proposals made at the WCPFC meeting, industrial fishing fleets from around the world will still able to ignore these conservation measures and be free to roam the Pacific.

Thomas says Pacific Island countries have been left with no other option but to take further action on marine conservation themselves and will need to stop all fishing in high seas pockets and totally ban the use of fish aggregating devices (FADs). FADs are man-made objects used to attract tuna to be netted. This unsustainable fishing method, used widely by purse seine fleets in the region, catches baby tuna and needlessly destroys other marine life, such as sharks and turtles.

At the meeting Japan and other Asian fishing powers even rejected a proposal to stop setting nets on whales and endangered whale sharks (2) which are used as living FADs, but are sometimes killed in the process.

“It is clear that many of the Commission members here are too heavily influenced by their industrial fishing interests. To ensure sustainability of tuna products and the health of the world’s oceans, retailers and markets must play a much bigger role in these discussions.”

Greenpeace is campaigning for a more sustainable fishing industry, which includes working with retailers across Europe, Australia and the Americas to increase the market share of sustainably sourced tuna. In addition to fishing industry reform, Greenpeace is also campaigning for a global network of marine reserves covering 40 per cent of the world’s oceans, both necessary steps to creating healthy, living oceans for future generations.

For more information about Greenpeace at the WCPFC, visit


Notes to editor:

(1) The Nauru Agreement is an agreement on terms and conditions for tuna fishing licences in part of the Pacific region. The Parties to the Nauru Agreement are Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Tuvalu.