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


Supply Chained: Human rights abuse in the global tuna industry

Blog entry by Tara Buakamsri | November 5, 2015

If you are a tuna lover, chances are good that someone who was forced to work for meagre pay — perhaps even under threat of violence — is behind your tuna curry or teriyaki. Human rights abuses in the tuna industry are serious and...

Three ways people power is changing in the tuna industry for good

Blog entry by Graham Forbes | October 23, 2015

The tuna industry is out of control . It is emptying the oceans of fish, killing other marine creatures like sharks and sea turtles — even abusing workers, who spend months or years at sea for meager pay. For years, tuna...

Why changing the tuna industry means stopping labour abuse

Blog entry by Jackie Dragon | October 21, 2015

The same unbridled economic interests that are driving destruction in our oceans are also allowing horrific labour practices and human rights abuses of workers in the seafood industry. This week, powerful allies joined forces...

I’m Vegan — Here’s Why I’m Fighting to Change the Tuna Industry

Blog entry by Dawn Bickett | October 21, 2015

As a vegan, Dawn Bickett used to feel removed from the issue of sustainable seafood. But after documenting the Pacific tuna industry's destructive ways with the Greenpeace Rainbow Warrior, she's determined to do more to protect our...

7,400 miles later: What we found in the deep blue sea

Blog entry by Rainbow Warrior crew | September 24, 2015

It’s now been 60 days since the Rainbow Warrior set sail from Auckland, New Zealand, travelling far into the Pacific Ocean on a mission to expose why our tuna are going belly up.  In that time we’ve covered 7,400 miles of deep blue.

An uncharted mountain

Blog entry by Andrew Davies | September 24, 2015

It’s often said that we know more about the surface of the moon than the bottom of the oceans, and we recently learned first hand how true that is. First mate Fernando was on the bridge early one morning. He works the...

A letter to Tangaroa, God of the sea

Blog entry by Rosalind Atkinson | September 23, 2015

Tangaroa. Atua of the oceans. This is not a structured argument. It's not an informative 101 on fisheries management. It's an apology, and an expression of my own grief, and a love letter. Some humans have forgotten some things. ...

Nauru calling for overhaul of Pacific fisheries following Greenpeace bust

Blog entry by Kate Simcock | September 18, 2015

Today Nauru became the third Pacific Island State to stand up for conservation and ban transshipping in its waters.  That’s a big stand for the smallest state in the South Pacific, especially in the face of significant pressure from...

Flying fish: From tuna boats to the Rainbow Warrior through the eyes of a heli pilot

Blog entry by Sophie Schroder | September 14, 2015

Matt Stoios is a man who has seen the world from many different perspectives, but mostly from above. A good natured Aussie bloke from Melbourne, you can find the Rainbow Warrior helicopter pilot in the skies over the Pacific Ocean...

Busted: Big ocean, bad boat

Blog entry by Sophie Schroder | September 10, 2015

We knew that the Taiwanese longline vessel could be fishing illegally almost as soon as its details popped up on the Rainbow Warrior's radar system. We were in the high seas of the Pacific, at least two days away, but when our...

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