Most people think of tuna in terms of how it tastes – whether it be raw in sushi and sashimi or from a can in a tuna sandwich or salad. But very few realise that tuna is being overfished to the point that some species have reached the end of the line. Last weekend groups of volunteers around New Zealand, dressed in colorful leis, went on a mission to talk to people about this magnificent predator of the sea in a context other than food.
The group I was in headed to the Avondale Markets in West Auckland. Our aim was to raise awareness about the issues around overfishing tuna in the Pacific and encouraging people to take action on the spot by signing a postcard addressed to the Minister of Fisheries, Phil Heatley, asking our Government to help save Pacific tuna.
Until recently, the Pacific held the last relatively healthy tuna fisheries left in the world - you could call it the last ocean for tuna. This has attracted industrial fishing vessels from around the world and also given rise to illegal and pirate fishing. This is not only putting a lot of pressure on the tuna stocks in the region but it’s also affecting the livelihoods of Pacific communities.
Greenpeace is supporting the closure of four high seas pockets in the Pacific to fishing and turning them into marine reserves. This will help control the problem of pirate fishing and give the stocks of tuna some breathing space.
We want the New Zealand Government to act as a good Pacific neighbour and support the closure of these four areas. This will be up for discussion at the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission meeting starting on the 6th of December. So we have less than a month to influence the Government’s decision. Our postcards to Phil Heatley are one way of doing this. As well as snail mail we’ve also got a version which can be emailed. Now’s the time, for all New Zealanders, to play a role in saving the future of Pacific tuna fisheries and the communities which depend on them.
The most inspiring part of my day at the markets was that none of us had to give any long explanations about the issue to the people we met (we had assumed this could take a while). People were ready to put their name down after they heard we were campaigning to stop overfishing in the Pacific by huge fleets of fishing vessels. It was encouraging to see so many people were ready to think beyond their appetite for seafood and to think about the future.
You can also help ensure that our Government does the right thing by getting involved in the Defending Our Pacific campaign, signing your own postcard and checking out our action pack . And, if you’re really passionate about the issue, put on a lei and join one of our teams around the country to spread the word. We’ll be out there again this weekend.