Solving the Problems of Our Oceans

Standard Page - 2011-06-21
We have the solution - Marine Reserves now! Scientists have warned that if current exploitation trends continue, all commercial fish populations could be wiped out by 2048. The best way to reverse this tragic trend is to create a worldwide network of marine reserves that cover 40% of the world’s oceans. At the moment, less than 1% of the world’s oceans are protected, and fishing fleets are allowed to go everywhere. Just like national parks on land, we need to protect important areas of the seas from exploitation.

We have the solution - Marine Reserves now!

Scientists have warned that if current exploitation trends continue, all commercial fish populations could be wiped out by 2048. The best way to reverse this tragic trend is to create a worldwide network of marine reserves that cover 40% of the world’s oceans. At the moment, less than 1% of the world’s oceans are protected, and fishing fleets are allowed to go everywhere. Just like national parks on land, we need to protect important areas of the seas from exploitation.

A Greenpeace activist holds a banner under a fish aggregation device (FAD) calling for "Marine Reserves Now".

There is a growing body of scientific evidence that now supports what we at Greenpeace have been saying for a long time: The establishment of large-scale networks of marine reserves is the key to reversing global fisheries decline.

These networks of marine reserves should be closed to all extractive uses, such as fishing and mining, as well as waste dumping. And if they are properly designed to cover crucial breeding and spawning grounds, they also work to protect tuna, sharks, and other species that migrate over vast distances.

Marine reserves can also benefit adjacent fisheries from both the 'spillover' of adult and juvenile fish beyond the reserve boundaries and through the export of eggs and larvae. Inside the reserves, populations increase in size and individuals live longer, grow larger and develop increased reproductive potential.

Within the reserves, there may be core zones where no human activities are allowed. These zones can include, for example, scientific reference areas or areas where there are particularly sensitive habitats or species.

Some areas within the coastal zones may be opened to small-scale, non-destructive fisheries, as long as they are sustainable, within ecological limits, and have been decided upon with the full participation of affected local communities.

Marine reserves provide a safe haven for marine life. They can help save tuna, ecosystems, and ultimately the fishing industry. After all, the fishing industry has a pretty miserable future if there’s no fish left to, well, fish...

Pacific Marine Reserves

The Pacific Commons would be the first Marine Reserves ever in international waters and would represent a small but significant step towards achieving this goal. Pacific Island countries including Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, and Cook Islands have already expressed their support for the protection of the Pacific Commons.

Nearly a quarter of all tuna taken from the Pacific comes from international waters. Because these areas are far away from land and hard to monitor, they are all too often easy pickings for illegal fishing. Pirates often fish in national country waters and then claim that the catch came from international waters. They also use these areas to offload their catches, and refuel at sea. This makes it much easier to avoid regulation of how much they have caught, and how long they have been at sea for.

The map above outlines four key areas of the international waters that Greenpeace has identified as the Pacific Commons, and which we demanded be closed off to fishing.

Some Progress

Three of the areas in the map above were named in a public competition we ran in the Pacific.

  • Area 1 is called the West Oceania Marine Reserve (WOMAR) (also known as the seasnake)
  • Area 2 is called the Greater Oceania Marine Reserve (GOMAR) (also know as the seahorse)

    These two areas will be closed to purse seining for Tuna from January 2010 onwards, as per a decision by the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission late in 2008.

    Other tuna fishing will also be limited in these areas from 2010 onwards -- thanks to the agreement of the eight surrounding coastal states to include a clause to their fishing licenses that vessels wanting to fish in their tuna-rich Economic Exclusion Zones cannot fish in the high seas. This will leave very little tuna fishing activity in these areas: the Commission should agree to ban what remains.
  • Area 3 (The Moana or Sea Turtle Reserve) and Area 4 are are not yet officially protected and we are calling on the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission to stop all fishing activities under its jurisdiction in these areas.

All these areas are key breeding and feeding grounds for tuna. They also contain unique ecosystems, including biologically rich undersea mountains, corals and endangered leatherback turtles.

By declaring them no-take marine reserves we protect them against pillage and destruction and secure a future for Pacific fisheries.

Protecting the Pacific Commons with marine reserves today, can save the Pacific from empty nets tomorrow.

The proposed areas are home to endangered leatherback turtles, minke and sperm whales, and other deep-sea marine life. The areas also provide vital feeding and breeding grounds for the region’s lifeline – tuna. The creation of marine reserves that are off limits to fishing will allow these fragile species and threatened stocks of tuna to rebuild, as well as maintain tuna fisheries and stocks for years to come.

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