For over a decade, I’ve been working around the world to protect the oceans and for the last five years, I’ve been focused on protecting the Pacific. The world’s largest ocean, the Pacific is home to nearly 70% of the world’s tuna. We’ve all eaten tuna but unfortunately we rarely stop to think where it comes from. I’ve been very luck to visit many of the Pacific Islands through whose waters the Pacific tuna travel and I’ve met the people whose futures are now hanging in the balance. You see, in a few short decades we’ve managed to plunder our oceans of so many fish with aggressive fishing boats travelling farther and farther to catch fewer and fewer fish. This is especially true in the Pacific. The fishing gears used in the Pacific are so wasteful that all too often, they bring up all sorts of ocean life with the tuna.
Just recently, a whistle-blower helicopter pilot approached us with some footage he had shot on a fishing vessel in the Pacific. Helicopters are often used to find tuna and also more recently to check floating objects used to attract tuna – fish aggregation devices. He was shooting video of his adventures on the beautiful Pacific, and was so appalled with what he saw that he decided to hand over the footage to us, in the hope that we could use it to inspire people like you to act to change this oceans destruction.
Watch the video here:
This isn’t a one-time occurrence. Scientists estimate that bycatch rates - the waste that’s discarded after the “target” fish are caught can be as high as 10 percent. When you consider how much tuna is caught, that’s a lot of wasted sharks, turtles, rays and even whales. It doesn’t have to be this way. Bycatch rates are particularly high when purse-seine fishing vessels (a very common fishing method in the Pacific) use Fish Aggregating Devices or FADs. FADs are objects- even pieces of wood- but sometimes complex sonar-tracked gadgets that attract all sorts of creatures and not just tuna to them. This means that everything is scooped up with the tuna. This indiscriminate fishing- which takes juvenile tuna as well, leaving little chance for tuna populations to recover has to stop. Greenpeace is working around the world to convince major tuna brands to abandon the most destructive fishing methods. You can take action here
We are also working with the Pacific Island governments to empower them to regain control over their water and their tuna. Tuna is key to the Pacific region’s economic prosperity and food security. No fish means no future for them. We need governments to back important conservation measures proposed by the island nations at this year’s Pacific tuna commission meeting, taking place in Palau in December. We will be there to give voice to the people who need tuna to survive and thrive and give them a chance to protect the Pacific for their children, not just the narrow tuna industry lobby. Also, in the Pacific Ocean itself, Esperanza and her crew are engaged in the Defending our Pacific tour, confronting wasteful overfishing, taking action and advocating for the solutions to keep the Pacific tuna around forever.
So, please share this video with everyone you know, tell them to demand responsibly-caught tuna, ask your retailers and tuna brands to support the Pacific people who need tuna for food and for jobs. Only if we change the way we fish and set aside more areas of oceans as marine reserves - wildlife parks at sea - can we deliver our children and grandchildren the tuna-rich future of healthy oceans that they deserve.
Sari “Blondfin” Tolvanen is an oceans campaigner leading Greenpeace’s work to rescue the Pacific Ocean. She is based in Greenpeace International’s Amsterdam office.