Greenpeace calls for urgent action to save Pacific tuna

Press release - August 23, 2010
Greenpeace is calling on the New Zealand Government to support a plan to make the Pacific's tuna fisheries sustainable following further reports of declining stocks.

“Global tuna stocks have plummeted due to overfishing. The Pacific is now the world’s last relatively healthy fishery and must be protected if we are to avoid the same thing happening here”, said Lagi Toribau Greenpeace Australia Pacific Ocean Campaigner who was in New Zealand this week to highlight the issue.

Stocks of Pacific skipjack, bigeye and yellowfin tuna are in decline according to reports (1) presented at a meeting of the Western Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) in Tonga this week. Pacific skipjack supplies 55 per cent of the world’s tinned tuna.

Later this year the WCPFC will discuss a plan to close four areas of international waters in the Pacific region to all fishing (2). The plan already has the support of Pacific island nations and Australia. The New Zealand Government has not confirmed its position.

“New Zealand must support its neighbours to make the Pacific’s tuna fisheries sustainable. Doing so is vital for the well-being of Pacific Island nations, both as a crucial economic resource and as a primary source of food, and the health of the ocean,” said Greenpeace New Zealand Oceans Campaigner Karli Thomas.

Greenpeace is also calling on countries to reduce regional tuna catches by 50 per cent and ban purse-seine fishing using fish aggregation devices (FADs). This method is meant to increases catch levels and efficiency - however it results in large numbers of turtles and sharks being caught together with juvenile tuna.

A record 2,467,903 million metric tonnes of tuna were caught in the Pacific last year. Figures show that 73 per cent was skipjack tuna caught mainly by large purse-seine fleets using FADs to attract fish.

Bigeye and yellowfin tuna continue to decline as conservation efforts to date have proved to be too little too late. The breeding population of Pacific bigeye tuna is now estimated to be down to 17 per cent, close to the levels of the Atlantic bluefin tuna which is below 15 per cent.

“An enormous ecological, social and economic disaster is looming and the Pacific Island countries must ban purse-seine fishing using FADs and cut the number of fishing vessels licensed in their waters before it is too late” said Toribau.

In 2009, a two-month ban on FADs in the Pacific proved effective in reducing the bycatch of vulnerable bigeye and yellowfin tuna, but subsequent resumption of FAD fishing for the remainder of the year resulted in large catches of juvenile tuna (3).

Greenpeace is campaigning for sustainable and equitable fisheries and a global network of marine reserves to cover 40 per cent of our oceans – area off limits to harmful fishing, and mining, drilling and other extractive activities. With marine reserves, our oceans and fish stocks can begin to recover.

Contacts:

Karli Thomas, Greenpeace New Zealand Oceans Campaigner, 021 905 582

Phil Crawford, Greenpeace New Zealand Media & Communications, 021 22 99 594

Notes:

(1) http://www.wcpfc.int/meetings/all

Now, for the first time a Japanese scientists report the decline in Skipjack Tuna at the edge of its range in Japan. Similar declines in Skipjack catch have been experienced in Australia, New Zealand and Vietnam as the Skipjack stock range contracts. Uosaki i, et al. 2010. Recent status of Japanese skipjack fishery in the vicinity of Japan.

 WCPFC-SC6-2010/SA- WP-07

(2) Map of the Pacific high seas pockets:

http://www.greenpeace.org/international/en/campaigns/oceans/marine-reserves/pacific-tuna-need-marine-reserves/

 High seas closures are also an effective means of restoring declining bigeye stocks . WCPFC 2010. Conservation and management measure for bigeye and yellowfin tuna in the Western and Central Pacific Oceans. Conservation and Management Measure 2008-01.

(3) Harley, Williams and Hampton 2010, Characterisation of purse seine fishing activities during the 2009 FAD closure.  WCPFC-SC6-2010/MI-WP-03

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