A record 2,467,903 million metric tons of tuna were caught in the Pacific last year. Of this, 73% was skipjack tuna mainly caught by large purse seine fleets using fish aggregation devices (FADs). The method is meant to increases catch levels and efficiency. It results in large numbers of turtles and sharks being caught together with juvenile tuna.
“Retailers must stop the sales of all tuna caught using this wasteful fishing method, otherwise we will see the end of bigeye tuna in the Pacific. There simply is no other immediate way to reduce the high catches of juvenile tunas and other marine life, but to ban purse-seine fishing using fish aggregation devices,” said Sari Tolvanen Greenpeace International Oceans Campaigner.
The already troubled bigeye and yellowfin tuna continue to decline as conservation efforts to date have proved to be too little too late. The breeding population of Pacific bigeye tuna is now estimated to be down to just 17%, close to the levels of the Atlantic bluefin tuna which is below 15%.
“An enormous ecological, social and economic disaster is looming and the Pacific Island countries must ban purse-seine fishing using FADs and cut the number of fishing vessels licensed in their waters before it is too late,” urged Duncan Williams, Greenpeace Australia Pacific Ocean Campaigner.
In 2009, a two-month ban on FADs in the Pacific proved effective in reducing the catch of vulnerable bigeye and yellowfin tuna, but subsequent resumption of FAD fishing resulted in large catches of juvenile tuna (2). In addition to a total ban on purse-seine fishing using FADs, Greenpeace is calling on attendees at the December meeting of the WCPFC to reduce by half the regional tuna catches and close all four high seas pockets (3) vulnerable to pirate fishing (4).
Greenpeace is campaigning for sustainable and equitable fisheries and a global network of marine reserves to cover 40 percent of our oceans – area off limits to harmful fishing, and mining, drilling and other extractive activities. With marine reserves, our oceans and fish stocks can begin to recover.
Now, for the first time a Japanese scientists report the decline in Skipjack Tuna at the edge of its range in Japan. Similar declines in Skipjack catch have been experienced in Australia, New Zealand and Vietnam as the Skipjack stock range contracts. Uosaki i, et al. 2010. Recent status of Japanese skipjack fishery in the vicinity of Japan.
(2) Harley, Williams and Hampton 2010, Characterisation of purse seine fishing activities during the 2009 FAD closure. WCPFC-SC6-2010/MI-WP-03
(3) ) Map of the Pacific high seas pockets:
(4) High seas closures are also an effective means of restoring declining bigeye stocks . WCPFC 2010. Conservation and management measure for bigeye and yellowfin tuna in the Western and Central Pacific Oceans. Conservation and Management Measure 2008-01.