Glimmer of hope for Pacific tuna

Feature story - 12 December, 2008
The final outcome of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission is too weak to stop overfishing of Pacific bigeye and yellowfin tuna. Pacific islanders are still at great risk from the collapse of this fishery. But the decision to close two of the high seas pockets, between Pacific Island countries, to purse seine fishing from 2010 has left them with a shred of hope.

For many pacific island countries, no tuna means no future.

The Commission will also consider the closure of a third high seas area in 2009. We have been campaigning for these areas to be designated as marine reserves since 2004.

Last year, our ship, Esperanza, patrolled these high seas areas for over ten weeks. During this time we took action againstfishing fleets from Taiwan, Korea, the US and the Philippines.

In order to support sustainable fisheries, protect marine life and clean up pirate fishing in the region - marine reserves are essential.

Scientists have been warning since 2001 that the bigeye and yellowfin stocks in the Pacific are in decline and recommended a minimum 30 percent reduction in fishing for 2009. Yet the commission only agreed to cut fishing on bigeye tuna with a range of measures including a 10 percent reduction for longliners only.

Greenpeace activists from Fiji and Papua New Guinea stand on juvenileyellowfin and skipjack tuna in the hold of a vessel that was caughtoffloading fish from purse seiners in the Pacific Commons.

Tuna exterminators strike back

Australia, New Zealand, the Pacific Island countries, and the US all put up a strong front to save the Pacific tuna. But resistance from Japan, Korea, China, Chinese Taipei and the Philippines meant that fishing will not be reduced enough to make a difference.

These nations, with a huge appetite for tuna, resisted moves to ensure the long-term sustainability of the fishery, despite strong economic arguments. Recent studies indicate that the fishing industry is undermining its own profits by having too many fishing vessels on the water and by depleting stocks to the point that fish are harder to catch. We've been calling for a precautionary 50 percent fishing reduction in order to ensure both the long term sustainability and profitability of the fishery.

Just add water

But rather than protecting their fishing future - these shortsighted governments are sending entire species into oblivion. As usual consensus based decision making ensured that many agreements were diluted to the lowest common denominator - determined only by short term interests. The needs of the Pacific Island States, whose livelihoods and economies depend on tuna, have been neglected yet again - despite members of the fishing industry calling upon these nations to follow the advice of scientists and reduce fishing by at least 30 percent.

Markets and marine reserves

In order to save fish for the future we're now calling on retailers and fish purchasers  to stop buying all overfished bluefin, bigeye and yellowfin tuna as well as skipjack caught using fish aggregation devices.

We're also continuing to push for a global network of fully protected marine reserves covering 40 percent of our oceans. This will help to; buffer our seas from the ravages of climate change, restore the health of fish stocks and protect ocean life from habitat destruction and collapse.

Take Action!

Join the call for a global network of marine reserves.

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Thanks to donations from individuals like you - we are able to support the Pacific islanders who are trying to preserve their way of life and economies. We don't accept donations from government or corporations. Please give what you can.

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