Destructive tuna fishing kills whales and whale sharks

Press release - 28 March, 2012
Guam/Sydney, 28 March 2012: Australian supermarkets continue to stock tuna caught using fishing methods which kill whales, Greenpeace revealed as regional leaders meet to decide the future of the world’s largest tuna fishery in the Pacific.

Greenpeace is demanding governments vote to ban the setting of tuna purse-seine fishing nets on whales and whale sharks, in a vote scheduled to take place this week at the Western and Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC), taking place in Guam.

In Western and Central Pacific fisheries in 2009, the Australian Government estimated that 1,195 whales and dolphins - and 56 endangered whale sharks - died as a result of reckless tuna fishing.
 
To put this in perspective, according to the Japanese Fisheries Agency, 266 whales were killed as result of the 2011-12 Antarctic whaling season. At the last round of WCPFC talks in 2010, Japan, Taiwan and other Asian fishing powers blocked the proposal to ban setting on whales and whale sharks.
 
“It’s astounding that fishing fleets continue to use whales and whale sharks as live lures to catch tuna,” said Greenpeace Australia Pacific Oceans campaign team leader Lagi Toribau. “Tuna gather under whales and whale sharks for shelter, so vessels are setting their vast nets around them and simply scooping the whole lot up. Most of these beautiful creatures are dead when they get tossed back into the ocean.”
 
According to the Australian government, around 66% of whales and other toothed cetaceans die as a result of botched attempts to use whale sharks as lures for tuna.
 
“The killing of whales and whale sharks in any form is senseless. Most people want an end to whaling, but few of us know that the unsustainable tuna in many of our cans also poses a serious threat to these magnificent creatures,” said Toribau. “Some brands are changing, but many more continue to sell products that threaten the future of tuna and wipe out endangered species such as whales, whale sharks, turtles and rays. Tinned tuna products that contribute to the deaths of whales and other marine life have no place on our shelves.  Treating these creatures as living FADs or using man-made FADs to catch tuna is destructive - and the brands that sell tuna caught using these methods, which include John West, Coles and Woolworths, need to commit to ending the practice for good."
 
Greenpeace is demanding that the WCPFC listen to consumer and industry demand for sustainable tuna and end all fishing in the Pacific Commons, ban wasteful Fish Aggregating Devices[1] and reduce the bigeye tuna catch by half.

Greenpeace is campaigning for a global network of marine reserves covering 40% of the world’s oceans and for a more sustainable fishing industry, both necessary steps to restoring our oceans to health. Around the world, Greenpeace is working with retailers and tuna brands across Europe, Australia and the Americas to increase the market share of sustainably-sourced tuna.

See Greenpeace’s canned tuna ranking

Images of a captured whale shark

For media inquiries contact communications manager: James Lorenz 0400 376 021
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[1] Greenpeace is campaigning to stop the use of ‘fishing aggregating devices’ (FADs) in Pacific waters. These floating devices are left in the water by fishing vessels to attract tuna. However, their usage results in the unnecessary deaths of hundreds of thousands of juvenile tuna, whales, sharks and rays every year – known as ‘by-catch.’

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