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


The cat’s out of the bag! Mars puts Thai Union under pressure

Blog entry by Kate Simcock | September 7, 2016

Give yourself a massive pat on the back!  After constant pressure from cat, tuna and ocean lovers alike, calling on global food giant Mars, and its brand Whiskas, to face up to human rights abuses in the supply chain of seafood...

Taking 400,000 people on a trip to the Indian Ocean

Blog entry by Tom Lowe | June 2, 2016

It was a sunny afternoon in April when the Esperanza left port in Madagascar six weeks ago. Its mission: to hunt down Thai Union’s destructive fishing operations in the Indian Ocean. Perhaps because of everything achieved since then...

Turning ocean destruction into brighter ideas

Blog entry by Tom Lowe | June 1, 2016

Deployed in their thousands and killing non-target species in their millions, fish aggregating devices ( FADs ) are a scourge to our oceans, devastating marine life to supply companies like Thai Union. Made up of nets, metal and...

We’re calling ‘lights out’ on Thai Union’s ocean destruction

Blog entry by Tom Lowe | May 27, 2016

Being in the middle of the Indian Ocean at night is incredible: you feel the vastness of the sea around you, the raw power of the waves, and the thick darkness. Now imagine from miles away, you see a glowing mass on the horizon. As...

Cats love tuna, just a little too much

Blog entry by Kate Simcock | May 18, 2016

Every day, all around the world, people and their pets eat tuna sourced from a Thai seafood conglomerate that has been condemned for destructive fishing methods and a connection to slave labour, including the locking of indentured...

Disruption, change and the growing wave against Thai Union tuna

Blog entry by Tom Lowe | May 14, 2016

The waves are surging higher around the Esperanza today. We’re headed north towards busier fishing areas, the horizon line heaving up and down as the ship barrels every which way amid the rolling, white-peaked swell. Waves crash...

4 reasons to tackle destructive fishing

Blog entry by François Chartier | May 5, 2016

The Greenpeace ship Esperanza is at sea stopping the destructive fishing practices of the largest tuna company on the planet – Thai Union – which owns popular tuna brands like John West, Petit Navire, Mareblu and Chicken of the Sea,...

How birdwatching helps stop Thai Union's ocean destruction

Blog entry by François Chartier | April 27, 2016

"I have a visual at two o'clock!" We rush to the 'monkey island', the highest platform of the Greenpeace ship Esperanza, where watchers scan the ocean from sunrise to sunset. The ship changes course and heads towards the small floating...

Biggest Fish: Is This Corporate Giant the Key to Saving the Ocean?

Blog entry by Chris Eaton | April 20, 2016

Thai Union Group -- the owner of Chicken of the Sea canned tuna -- is an industrial monster that has sunk its hooks throughout global seafood markets. Hundreds of thousands of people are taking it on and changing the game for ocean...

Heading to sea to stop destructive fishing

Blog entry by François Chartier | April 19, 2016

The smell of fish is all around the Greenpeace Esperanza. We’ve been docked in Diego Suarez in Madagascar, getting ready to take on the tuna giant Thai Union again. Fittingly, there’s a fish processing factory right next to the ship...

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