Nga iwi e! Nga iwi e! Kia kotahi ra te Moana nui a Kiwa. / All you people! All you people! Be united as one, like the Pacific Ocean

Karli Thomas

Greenpeace has a proud history of defending our Pacific, and this is one of the rousing songs we sang in the days of the Pacific nuclear free protests. In the 1980s, millions of people across the Pacific region came together, with Greenpeace at their side, to bring an end to nuclear testing in the region. And now, the time has come for the people and leaders of the Pacific to stand together to protect te Moana nui a Kiwa – the great Pacific Ocean that sustains this region.

The bottom line is if the tuna go, with them will disappear livelihoods, income and a vital food source for Pacific Island countries. If we are to avoid this, we need a fishing model that is based on the overall health of our oceans and not fishing every last corner of the ocean. We need one that sets aside large areas of ocean as protected marine reserves to allow tuna and other ocean life safe havens from fishing nets and other perils. Greenpeace is proposing that four areas of international waters called the Pacific Commons, be set aside as marine reserves which is a necessary step to ensuring ample tuna and a viable tuna industry for future generations. At next week’s Pacific Tuna Commission meeting in Guam, Pacific island countries will be pushing for the next step towards achieving this.

Of course, we need to properly manage the fish outside of the Pacific Commons. Purse seine fishing, mostly targeting skipjack tuna but catching many others in the process, is taking a heavy toll on other species. Purse seine vessels deploy fish aggregating devices (FADs) which attract tuna but also take in other ocean life. Sharks, bill fish, juvenile tuna and even the occasional turtle fall victim to purse seine fishing around FADs. Pacific countries are calling for the current three month ban on purse seine fishing with FADs in the region to be extended. Greenpeace believes this should be a complete ban. What's the excuse for needless waste to go on for the other nine months of the year?

But with all the will in the world, Pacific countries can only achieve these changes with the support of the foreign fishing powers whose fleets catch most of the Pacific tuna. Just last year we saw a proposal to end the setting of tuna nets around whales and whale sharks blocked by a couple of delegations acting as puppets for their fishing industries.

We can't afford to let the Pacific Tuna Commission become yet another political forum where every country fights for a bigger slice of the fish pie and to heck with tomorrow. Because, for Pacific Island countries, this is the one and only ocean that sustains us and its management must be done right for us to have a future.

But are the interests of the people of the Philippines, Taiwan, Japan or the USA – the countries standing in the way of progress - really different to those of Pacific Island nations? We all will suffer together if this last viable tuna fishery is sucked dry. It is already feeding close to 60 percent of the world's tuna appetite. Pacific tuna sustains more than just island communities. It keeps fishing industries afloat, provides jobs and puts tuna cans on shelves just about everywhere. Click here to tell them to save our tuna, our Pacific, our future.

We knew years ago that we couldn’t allow nuclear testing in the Pacific. Now we have to renew our solidarity to defend our Pacific. If not there will be no tuna and no tuna industry for anyone.

Karli Thomas is an oceans campaigner at Greenpeace Aotearoa New Zealand