I’ve just returned from a technical meeting of the Pacific Tuna Commission – but, actually, I want to tell you about something that happened in 2009. This time last year, I was on the Greenpeace ship Esperanza, in the Pacific Ocean, on a mission to document and take action against the many fishing vessels from around the world that are threatening the Pacific’s tuna stocks.
We came across the Japanese flagged longline vessel Koyu Maru 3, blatantly stealing fish from Cook Islands waters. We caught them red handed. Several days later, we came into Rarotonga, handing over the damning evidence we’d collected. By the end of the year the Cook Islands had negotiated a $1 million settlement for the theft of their resources. Neighbouring Tokelau received
$400,000 due to evidence uncovered during the investigation that showed the Koyu Maru fleet had stolen fish in their waters, too.
So why am I telling you this now, a year on? Because, right now, we have
the opportunity to help bring an end to this continued theft and plunder. At the
Pacific Tuna Commission technical meeting, the Cook Islands outlined a
plan to close the pocket of high seas bordering their waters. Greenpeace expeditions have shown, time and again, that these pockets are being exploited by pirate fishing vessels. Closing these areas to all fishing will be a huge step towards shutting down their operations.
Of course that’s not the only benefit of closing these areas to fishing. We’ve also shown that the Pacific high seas meet all the criteria of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) to warrant designation as marine protected areas to protect their biodiversity.
But, critically, governments like New Zealand need to get behind this plan if it’s to succeed. As yet, New Zealand remains the only country in the local region that has not spoken up in support of closing areas of high seas to fishing. All our Pacific neighbours, and Australia, are behind the concept.
A decision will be made at the December meeting of the Pacific Tuna Commission and by then New Zealand needs to voice its support for the closure – it’s our responsibility to do so as good Pacific neighbours.
You can help by sending a message to the Government. You can use our pre-written email or write your own at www.greenpeace.org.nz/tuna