Greenpeace online petition reveals market demand for sustainable Pacific skipjack tuna

Press release - 1 September, 2009
Greenpeace has today announced that over 70 million tins of sustainable, pole-and-line-caught Pacific skipjack tuna have been pre-ordered as part of an online campaign to promote the development of sustainable and equitable pole-and-line skipjack fisheries in the South Pacific. The announcement comes on the eve of the 2nd Pacific Tuna Forum taking place in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, where the future sustainability and development of the region’s tuna industry will be discussed.

Greenpeace launched its 'pre-order campaign'(1) in April 2009, asking wholesalers, retailers and other market players to sign up to show their interest in sustainable tuna products from the Pacific.

"Pole and line fishing has a very low rate of by-catch, unlike purse seining and using fish aggregation devices," said Sari Tolvanen, Greenpeace International Oceans Campaigner in Port Moresby. "Environmentally-aware consumers who do not want to participate in ocean destruction are demanding tuna caught by pole and line, and the level of pre-orders in our petition shows that there is also a broader market value."

The west and central Pacific currently supplies over 50% of the world's favourite fish. The vast majority is taken by distant water fishing nations from Asia, the US and Europe, and very little of the economic benefits remain in the hands of Pacific coastal states(2). Skipjack tuna, the species most commonly ending up in tins on supermarket shelves, is often harvested by purse seine fleets using unselective fishing methods that harm juvenile tuna and other marine life.

"There is a rising demand for sustainably and equitably produced tuna, and for the Pacific, this could be a win-win situation. Many Pacific Island countries are in a prime position to develop a sustainable pole and line skipjack industry. The method is well-suited to local use, provides income and livelihoods to coastal communities and therefore provides a more equitable product (3)," said Lagi Toribau of Greenpeace Australia Pacific. "Our pre-order petition and the market contacts it has generated should persuade the region to look at pole and line fishing seriously while they meet in Port Moresby."(4)

The Greenpeace ship Esperanza is currently in the Pacific as part of an international campaign for clean and healthy oceans through the creation of a global network of marine reserves and effective enforcement of laws that protect ocean life. The tour will call for the protection of Pacific tuna through the establishment of marine reserves spanning the four pockets of international waters in the Pacific Ocean, and ensuring sustainable levels of fishing outside of these areas.

Greenpeace is campaigning for a global network of fully protected marine reserves, covering 40% of our oceans. These are essential to maintaining clean and healthy oceans and to protect marine life from overfishing and habitat destruction. Healthy oceans can also play a vital role in building resilience against the devastating effects of climate change.

Other contacts: Sari Tolvanen, Greenpeace International Oceans Campaigner, in Port Moresby +675 728 56098

Lagi Toribau, Greenpeace Australia Pacific Oceans Team Leader, in Port Moresby +675 728 56098

Beth Herzfeld, Greenpeace International press office in London, +44 7717 802 891

Notes: (1) Companies signing up to the “pre-order petition” do not enter any legally binding agreement or assume any obligation whatsoever. The purposes of the petition are to demonstrate there is a market for sustainable and equitable pole and line caught tuna and to establish contacts between potential buyers and producers.

(2) The Pacific Island states, for example, receive on average a mere 6% of theUS$3 billion value of the tuna caught in their waters. Local fishermen find their once tuna-rich waters depleted; there are few jobs for local people, and as most of the catch is exported there are also food security issues.

(3) The accompanying employment benefits could help fight poverty in the region, and provide livelihoods and income to local communities, as has been the case in the Maldives. At present, Maldives has a fleet of over 1000 pole and line vessels, employing over 20,000 fisherman and many more in boat-building, processing and other support roles.

(4) Stakeholders from the Pacific Islands, the regional industry and European market players interested in supporting the development of the industry, as well as science and policy makers in the region are discussing the next possible steps in the development of a sustainable and equitable pole and line skipjack fisheries in the region in a workshop organised by Greenpeace on 1 September 2009.