Over half the world's tuna is caught in the Pacific, with the vast majority taken by distant water fishing nations from Asia, the US and Europe. Despite agreements to reduce tuna catches to combat overfishing, an estimated 2,426,195 metric tonnes of tuna was caught in the Pacific in 2008 - the highest annual catch on record (2). The countries with highest tuna catch are the Philippines, Japan, Indonesia, South Korea, Taiwan and the USA. China and Spain are also showing a steady increase in catch sizes.
"Pacific tuna stocks are in crisis, and it is appalling that instead of reducing their tuna catches, fishing fleets are increasing their plunder of the Pacific. The fishing industry is in danger of fishing itself to death," said Karli Thomas, Greenpeace New Zealand oceans campaigner, on board the Esperanza. "The only way to stop this rush to fish out what's left of the tuna on our planet is to urgently cut the level of fishing by half across the region, close all four pockets of international waters in the Pacific to all fishing (3), and declare them as marine reserves."
During the expedition, Greenpeace will ensure that international tuna fleets adhere to the two-month ban on purse seine fleets using fish aggregation devices (FADs), which are responsible for wasteful bycatch of juvenile tuna and other endangered marine life such as sharks and turtles. The Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (4), (popularly known as the Pacific Tuna Commission), has instituted the FAD ban during August and September.
Greenpeace's "Defending Our Pacific" tour aims to demand 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. The proposed areas are home to endangered leatherback turtles, as well as minke and sperm whales, and other deep-sea life and provide vital feeding and breeding areas for the region's lifeline - tuna.
Last year, the Pacific Tuna Commission, agreed to close two of these to all tuna purse seining, the main fishing method used in the Pacific, from January 2010 onwards. In addition, at a meeting in May 2009 Pacific Island nations supported in principle the closure of all four pockets of international waters. The Commission will have the opportunity to close all four pockets of international waters to all fishing at its December meeting.
"Protecting these areas from fishing is vital to the future of the Pacific Ocean and the many countries that depend on it for their food and livelihoods," said Josua Turaganivalu, Greenpeace Australia Pacific oceans campaigner, onboard the Esperanza. "In addition purse seining with FADs must be banned globally."
Greenpeace is campaigning for a global network of fully protectedmarine reserves covering 40% of our oceans as an essential way toprotect our seas from the ravages of climate change, to restore thehealth of fish stocks, and protect ocean life from habitat destructionand collapse.
VVPR info: Onboard the Esperanza, Tel.+4751407988Karli Thomas, Oceans Campaigner (Expedition Leader), Greenpeace New ZealandJosua Turaganivalu, Oceans Campaigner, Greenpeace Australia PacificArthur Dionio, Greenpeace International communications
Notes: (1)Scientists have warned since 2001 that bigeye and yellowfin tuna are being overfished limits, but the warning has not been heeded and pressure on stocks has not been reduced. Overfishing by large industrial fishing fleets from Asia, US and Europe has stymied the calls by Pacific Island countries to protect tuna stocks in theregion.
(2)SOURCE: Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission, www.wcpfc.int/meetings/2009/5th-regular-session-0
(3)The pockets of international waters identified by Greenpeace as needing protection as marine reserves, lie between Pacific Island country national waters - a map showing where they are is available athttp://www.greenpeace.org/international/campaigns/oceans/marine-reserves/pacific-tuna-need-marine-reserves
(4)The Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission is comprised of 27 countries namely Australia, Federated States of Micronesia, Korea, Palau, Chinese Taipei, China, Fiji, Republic of Marshall Islands, Papua New Guinea, Tonga, Canada, France, Nauru, Philippines, Tuvalu, Cook Islands, Japan, New Zealand, Samoa, United States of America, Indonesia, Senegal, European Community, Kiribati, Niue, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu.