The Western and Central Pacific

Standard Page - 2011-06-21
Industrial fishing fleets have decimated and almost destroyed their own fisheries in the Atlantic. And now, rather than accept that they need to reduce their fishing capacity, fishing fleets are turning greedy eyes towards the Pacific (as well as Africa).

Industrial fishing fleets have decimated and almost destroyed their own fisheries in the Atlantic. And now, rather than accept that they need to reduce their fishing capacity, fishing fleets are turning greedy eyes towards the Pacific (as well as Africa).

Young man on jetty at sunset with fishing rod, Tarawa, Kiribati.

Greenpeace is highlighting the overfishing of the Pacific Ocean by foreign distant water fishing fleets, and the severe consequences this has created for local fishing communities.

The future of the Pacific, and of the coastal communities, is increasingly at the mercy of unscrupulous fisheries, pushed by the growing global appetite for tuna.

The Pacific Communities

The Western and Central Pacific Ocean is home to over 20 island nations and the world’s largest tuna fishery. Almost three quarters of the world’s tuna supply comes from this region.

Unfortunately, tuna and other popular fish are in grave danger of being overfished. Far from being one of the last healthy fisheries in the world, the Pacific is being increasingly preyed upon by distant nations and pirate fishing – which are not constrained by quotas and harvest as many fish as possible.

Children next to a small boat in Namakala village, Fuji, Pacific Ocean.

Pacific people have fished the ocean for thousands of years, managing traditional fishing grounds in a sustainable way. Today, locally based vessels, owned by foreign and local companies, catch about 10% of the total catch of tuna a year. But increasing numbers of industrial distant-water fishing boats are moving into the Pacific, taking the rest of the total catch. These ships come from key distant-water powerhouses like China, Korea, Taiwan, Japan, the USA and the EU.

Unfair Fisheries

Even worse, the Pacific island communities are being robbed of the right to fish in their own seas. More than half of the world’s fishers are small-scale or subsistence fishermen, but they catch only a tiny portion of the world’s fish.

Local fishermen Ateri Ari and Ekueta with their catch of tuna, Kiribati, Pacific Ocean.

The fishing industries pay pocket change for the right to catch lucrative tuna: island nations receive access fees and licenses that equate to a small percentage of the fish’s billion dollar market value.

In Taiwan, fishing villages and island residents are facing great threats to their livelihoods as well as traditional way of life. These small-scale fishermen, who practice traditional fishing methods, now must compete with massive industrialized fisheries with state-of-the-art technology. When there are less fish in the ocean for everyone, the loss hits subsistence fishermen the hardest – in their stomachs and their wallets.

The Pacific is at a crossroads. One path leads to sustainable and equitable fisheries, a healthy marine environment and stable and prosperous island communities. The other path leads to the collapse of the tuna fisheries and loss of livelihood and food source for the people of the Pacific.

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