Threat to Pacific tuna greater than ever – key negotiations fail in Tahiti

Press release - December 14, 2009
Greenpeace has slammed the refusal of Asian distant water fishing nations Korea, China, Taiwan and Japan to agree effective new measures to urgently halt the decline of tuna stocks at the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC).

Despite strong calls from Pacific Island Countries to limit fishing and widespread support to close two high seas enclaves to purse seine fishing(1), Japan, Korea and Taiwan blocked any agreement.

The failure took place on the backdrop of warnings from the scientific community that the catch of  bigeye tuna needs to be cut by up to 50% to ensure its survival, and that the current short ban in place for fish aggregating devices (FADs) is insufficient to address bycatch of juvenile bigeye tuna and other marine life. In 2010, only a 10% catch reduction will be implemented on bigeye and a three month ban will be in place on the use of FADs. Both measures fall far short of scientific advice provided to the Commission.

"It is beyond belief that Japan, Korea, China and Taiwan are unable to follow the advice given to them by their own scientists, and continue to prioritise short term economic gains," said Sari Tolvanen, Greenpeace International Oceans Campaigner in Tahiti. "The demands of the fishing industry and the shady international networks of fish traders should not be more important than securing long-term sustainable supplies of tuna to their own consumers."

"This is an economic and social crime that is repeated in ocean after ocean, year after year, and which will soon lead to the disappearance of the word's favourite fish - tuna," continued Tolvanen. "Markets must now take urgent action to stop the trade of unsustainable tuna."

Measures agreed in 2008 to ban purse seine fishing in two large high seas pockets will come into effect in January 2010. In addition eight of the most tuna-rich countries in the Pacific will take unilateral measures to restrict tuna longline fishing in those high seas pockets from January 2010. However, longline fishing vessels that do not hold fishing licenses with those countries can still fish tuna in the high seas areas.

Pirate fishing in the Pacific is estimated to be some of the highest anywhere in the world(2), and further undermines the stock estimates and management attempts of the fishery. Greenpeace has been calling for the four high seas pockets to be to be designated as marine reserves since 2005, and has undertaken four ship expeditions in the region to gather evidence of the legal and illegal overfishing taking place.

"Asian distant water fishing nations have shown that they have no intention to work with Pacific Island Countries to conserve tuna stocks, and ensure that the development aspirations of small island states are met," said Lagi Toribau Greenpeace Australia Pacific Oceans Campaigner in Papeete. "The Pacific must now build on the solidarity they have shown in recent years to reject fishing by nations that are threatening their resources, livelihoods and futures."

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: Sari Tolvanen, Greenpeace International Campaigner in Papeete, +31655125480 Lagi Toribau, Pacific Oceans Team Leader in Papeete, +679 9370330

Notes: (1) The pockets of international waters identified by Greenpeace as needing protection as marine reserves lie between Pacific Island country national waters - a map showing their locations is available at (2) Marine Resource Assessment Group (MRAG) and the University of British Columbia (2008) “The global extent of illegal fishing”

Exp. contact date: 2010-01-14 00:00:00