Today, I am sitting in a big event hall in the Busan Lotte Hotel, attending the 8th Scientific Committee meeting of the Pacific Tuna Commission (WCPFC SC8). Over 150 scientists and representatives from the members of WCPFC, including those with big fishing industries such as Japan, Korea and the Philippines, have gathered here in Busan to review the tuna stock status.
The reason I am in this meeting is very simple – tuna is at risk! More than 60% of world’s tuna are caught in the Western and Central Pacific, the last big fishing ground for this high-value seafood. But unfortunately, according to the latest review, all Pacific tuna stocks are declining due to aggressive fishing, and yet more and more fishing boats are joining the fleet each year. The pattern is similar in other oceans and, in fact, most of the key tuna species are now listed on the IUCN Redlist of Threatened Species.
The discussion inside the meeting can get very technical - they are discussing the fishing rates, mortality, and many acronyms, and…. we’ll leave these details to the scientists! What is clear is that we need to stop overfishing. We are hoping the scientists in this room will make strong recommendations at the end of this meeting on how to turn the situation around and rescue tuna, not perpetuate the plunder of our oceans.
Greenpeace today flew 6 motorized balloon tunas carrying the messages – “Ban the FAD in purse seine”, “Close the High Seas pockets in the Pacific Commons,” and “Reduce bigeye fishing rate by 50%”. The tuna swam over the heads of all the delegations and we hope these messages also swam into their minds!
I have been travelling from Taiwan to Korea - two of the biggest distant water fisheries powers – in the past 2 years to help end overfishing at the hands of Taiwanese and Korean fishing interests. Saving tuna is not just important for the Pacific Island people, it is also for the millions who have been making their livelihoods from the sea for generations.
If you ask any of the fishermen, they will tell you clearly that, fish populations are declining. If we like our kids to be able to still consume seafood in the next 50 years, urgent actions should be taken now!
Chow Yuen Ping is a senior oceans campaigner based in the Seoul office of Greenpeace East Asia.