Pacific plunder

As industrial fishing fleets exhaust tuna stocks around the globe more and more are heading to the Pacific in search of a disappearing resource. There are almost 6000 vessels licensed to fish for tuna in the Pacific and in 2012 around 2.6 million tonnes of Pacific tuna were caught – that’s about 60 per cent of the world’s supply of tuna. However, overfishing means tuna stocks are being caught faster than they can replenish.

This plunder of the Pacific is impacting on the health of our ocean, the future of tuna in the region and of Pacific island countries and their people which rely on the fisheries economically and as an essential source of food.

Pacific bigeye and yellowfin are already in serious trouble. Two years ago scientists advised that fishing needed to be cut by up to 50 per cent to allow bigeye tuna to recover. In New Zealand we’re noticing the reduced numbers of yellowfin arriving in our coastal waters from the Pacific, especially long the east coast of the North Island. The Whakatane Sportsfishing Club has removed the word ‘tuna’ from the name of one of its annual tournaments as tuna are no longer being caught.

Destructive fishing practices are wiping out tuna stocks as well as other marine species. The main method of catching skipjack tuna (the most common species you’ll find on supermarket shelves) is one of the worst offenders. Fishing fleets use floating death traps to attract schools of tuna - fish aggregation devices (FADs) - then scoop up everything in the area with huge purse seine nets. The indiscriminate catch includes tuna so young that they haven't had a chance to reproduce as well as unwanted species including sharks and turtles which are thrown back into the sea dead or dying. This method of using death trap FADs, along with purse seine nets, catches up to ten times more unwanted species than more sustainable practices.

Pirate fishing is also rampant in high value tuna fisheries, literally stealing tuna from the plates of some of the poorest people in the world. Illegal fishing is estimated to cost the Pacific region up to NZ$1.7 billion per year.

But even the legal tuna fisheries are part of the robbery. The way that foreign fishing nations and rich multinational corporations negotiate with Pacific Island countries for access to fish tuna in their waters is incredibly unfair. Only around five per cent of the value of the tuna is given to the resource owners, often denying coastal communities much-needed employment and perpetuating irresponsible fishing.

In 2013 we launched a report providing a blueprint for Pacific Island governments and regional bodies to promote a more sustainable and locally owned and operated tuna fishery in the region.



The latest updates

 

Japan's sordid vote-buying on whaling exposed

Blog entry by nick | June 15, 2010

So, what's your price to sell out the whales? Some brown envelopes stuffed with cash? A nice big cheque for development aid? All-expenses paid trips to exotic locations? Or some dubious entertainment, including 'good girls'? ...

Big trouble for bluefin tuna

Feature story | June 14, 2010 at 0:00

By now it ought to be obvious to anyone - if we want bluefin tuna tomorrow we need to stop catching them today. But despite the clear scientific evidence and predictions of the bluefin's demise - our activists faced a 2 hour confrontation at sea...

Fish jumping ship

Blog entry by Phil | May 28, 2010

The vast majority of the world’s internationally traded seafood moves by sea.  Many unfortunate fish find themselves ripped out of the ocean only to be gutted, frozen, shoveled into containers, and sent plowing across the top of it in...

Disaster for bluefin tuna at CITES meeting

Feature story | March 22, 2010 at 19:31

Governments have completely failed to pull bluefin tuna back from the brink of 'commercial extinction': it would have been so easy, listen to the scientists, witness the failure of the exiting management group, and agree to protection under CITES...

Last chance for bluefin tuna, too late for real conservation

Feature story | March 8, 2010 at 2:12

So the world is finally waking up to the fact that the bluefin tuna is in crisis. That's nice. But decades of overfishing have pushed this majestic fish to the brink of extinction, which is not the point at which we should start thinking about...

NZ to increase catch of critically endangered bluefin tuna

Feature story | January 27, 2010 at 0:00

New Zealand’s seafood industry and Ministry of Fisheries would like everyone to believe that NZ's fisheries are well managed and sustainable. Unfortunately that's not true. Many of our commercial fisheries still rely on bottom trawling, one of...

Suicidal Tuna Fisheries

Feature story | May 11, 2009 at 0:00

The Turkish government has set its own catch limit for the endangered Mediterranean bluefin tuna - in total disregard for internationally agreed quotas and scientific advice.

Yellowfin tuna on the ground in Honiara's market

Image | May 6, 2009 at 0:22

A Yellowfin tuna lies on the ground in Honiara's market. The feet of a local child are seen alongside.

Glimmer of hope for Pacific tuna

Feature story | December 15, 2008 at 2:52

The final outcome of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission is too weak to stop overfishing of Pacific bigeye and yellowfin tuna. Pacific islanders are still at great risk from the collapse of this fishery. But the decision to close...

What sort of fisheries manager are you?

Blog entry by Nick | December 12, 2008

As the delegates at the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission meeting in Korea negotiate tuna into extinction. Our oceans team over there have been asking them to fill out this survey: WHAT SORT OF FISHERIES MANAGER ARE...

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