These are some of the findings of a new report 'Out of line, the global failure of tuna longline fisheries’, issued ahead of a major regional meeting beginning 2 December in Cairns that will decide the future of 60% of the world’s tuna.
“Tuna is a favourite on the Australian table, and tuna fishers are an important part of our east coast fishing industry,” said Nathaniel Pelle, Oceans Campaigner at Greenpeace Australia Pacific. “But increased fishing effort in the Pacific from fishing powers like China and Taiwan, along with illegal and unregulated fishing, has an impact in our own waters. Tuna are migratory, so the stocks pillaged in the Pacific are the same as those caught off our shores.”
Around the world, nobody knows how many longline vessels there are, but estimates put the number at over 5000, with each vessel capable of employing lines up to 150km long with as many as 3000 hooks per line. It is estimated that 300,000 sea turtles, 160,000 sea birds and millions of sharks die on longlines every year. There are 3,629 longline vessels on the register to fish in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean compared to just a handful of active Australian operators. Estimates states that between 21%-46% of fishing in the Pacific is illegal, unregulated or unreported (IUU).
“Distant water fishing powers such as Taiwan, China, Korea and the US have blocked sensible reform of the Pacific longline fleet year after year,” said Pelle. “As the host nation, Australia really needs to do all it can to make sure we don’t end in stalemate again in Cairns. If we do, then the outlook for Pacific tuna fishing is pretty grim.”
“Australia generally plays a positive role in the Pacific by providing scientific advice, political clout, and the surveillance and enforcement capacity needed by the Pacific’s Small Island developing states. But we could and should do more,” said Pelle. “By stepping up our contribution we’d not only be helping our neighbours, we’d be benefiting Australian fishermen too. We share the same fish and the same ocean, so unless we speak out, it’s our own fishers and consumers who will ultimately pay the price.”
Greenpeace is calling on Australia and Pacific island countries to increase their oversight of longline fisheries in the region, to ensure they are operated to a much higher standard environmentally and socially, and contribute more economically to the region.
“Globally, the behavior of longline tuna fisheries is scandalous, with regular reports of poor practices such as illegal fishing, labour law abuses involving captive crews who can spend several years at sea and the killing of threatened species like sharks and turtles. But this isn’t just some far off issue, its impact is increasingly being felt at home,” concluded Pelle.
For the full report, please click here
For more information contact:
Greenpeace Communications Manager James Lorenz on 0400 376 021