Pacific Island countries to surf the sustainable tuna wave

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Feature Story - 7 August, 2013
You can be confident that the Fair Trade coffee you grab on the way to work helps support local coffee producers in countries from Tanzania to Costa Rica. Sadly, right now the same can’t be said for the tinned tuna on your sandwich at lunch.

Kiribati

Local fisherman Atera hauls in Tuna onto small boat, Tarawa, Kiribati, Western Pacific Ocean. Greenpeace tour aimed at highlighting the over fishing of the Pacific Ocean by foreign distant water fishing fleets. The tour specifically focuses on the mass depletion of Tuna stocks and the severe consequences this has created for local fishing communities.

That’s because big, industrial fishing fleets from distant waters plunder the Pacific harvesting the tuna and the profits.

Few benefits flow to the people and local economies of Pacific Island countries, in a region which supplies over sixty per cent of all tuna consumed around the globe.

A new report by Greenpeace Australia Pacific offers a road map for Pacific Island governments a road map to transform their tuna industries. And by protecting precious tuna reserves from overfishing, it’ll create local jobs and maximise the return to local economies.

How Australians are making it happen

People power saw a successful ban last year of the super trawler, Abel Tasman, from Australian waters.

Likewise, we want to move away from destructive large scale industrial fishing fleets plundering tuna stocks in the Pacific. Massive tuna boats like the Albatun Tres can catch as much tuna in a single trip as some Pacific Island countries catch in a whole year.

These expanding foreign fleets are robbing local fishermen of opportunities, employ few Pacific Islanders and pay only modest access fees to island countries. Pacific Island countries usually see just 5-6 per cent of the landed value of the fish.

This sorry tale can be rewritten if Pacific governments encourage small and medium scale locally owned artisanal and village based fisheries.

Returning profits to local fisheries

Our vision is that these operations will catch tuna using sustainable methods, for example pole and line operations that create minimal bycatch. The fishing will be done by local fisherman from locally built and owned boats.

On-shore production and marketing would be controlled by local companies who then distribute tuna to world markets.

Pacific Island countries can seize the day and take full advantage of people’s growing desire to buy ethical and sustainable food.

In Australia, the US, NZ and the UK, major tinned tuna brands and retailers are shifting to buying only responsibly sourced fish, in the wake of a concerted campaign by Greenpeace. With improved standards and proper labelling and certification, Pacific Islanders will reap a premium price for a resource that is rightfully theirs.

And sometime soon you’ll be able to grab a Fair Trade coffee and a tuna sandwich packed with Pacific Island goodness, with the benefits flowing directly back to local communities.

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