Sending out an SOS for Pacific tuna

Feature story - December 10, 2008
Our activists together with Korean environmental group KFEM created a huge human "SOS Tuna" banner on the shores of a beach in Busan, Korea, as a key regional meeting in Korea began this week. This extremely critical meeting will decide the fate of valuable tuna stocks in the Pacific, which are now seriously threatened due to overfishing.

Greenpeace and KFEM activists display a banner in Busan, Korea, the venue of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission meeting this week. Greenpeace and KFEM support the proposal by Pacific Island countries for closure of the high seas areas to fishing, and a reduction of the tuna catch in the region.

The Pacific ocean is rich in marine life and home to over 20 Island Nations. Today, the Pacific supplies over 6 percent of the world's tuna. But overfishing in other areas of the world means more and more boats are moving in, and chasing fewer and fewer fish.

Huge industrial tuna boats, capable of catching as many tuna in one trip as some of the countries are able to take in a year, are plundering this vulnerable region at a rate that means trouble for the tuna as well as the people whose livelihoods and futures depend on them.

These boats originate from countries like Korea, Japan and Taiwan and feed the ever-increasing appetites for tuna in the luxury Asian, European and US markets.

It's not just about saving some fish

The lives and economies of Pacific Islanders and Pacific Island nations are in peril as big eye and yellow fin tuna stocks are threatened from overfishing. Pacific communities are at the mercy of unscrupulous foreign fishers and our growing global appetite for tuna is in the grip of unfair and unsustainable fishing.

We are calling on delegates at this week's Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) meeting in Korea to implement measures for a sustainable and profitable fishing industry. The WCPFC must start putting words into action by agreeing on strong and effective measures. A precautionary and ecosystem-based approach is needed to preserve the rich marine diversity of the Pacific Ocean.

Reduce, protect and reject

There must be an immediate halving of fishing, a closure to fishing in the high seas pockets and an immediate halt to the transfer of fish at sea to discourage piracy.

The WCPFC must ensure decisions are not hijacked again by a small minority of nations that are not acting in the best interest of Pacific people, their valuable tuna resources and the health of the Western and Central Pacific Ocean ecosystem.

We have one last chance to ensure the bigeye and yellowfin tuna stocks do not face the same fate as bluefin tuna of the Mediterranean. The Commission has to be prepared to face the consequences if negotiations break down to governments and industry ruthlessly bargaining for the last tuna.

Our ship, the Esperanza, is present in Korea to bear witness to the WCPFC's decisions, which will dictate the future of Pacific tuna.

Korea should lead by example

We have joined forces with Korean environmental group KFEM to ensure that Korea, as the host nation and key player in the fishery, takes the lead in making sure that this meeting takes action. 

We need marine reserves which will fully protect the most vulnerable breeding grounds of the tuna from exploitation. We need sustainable management measures outside those areas that will secure a future for this fishery and for the future of the millions of Pacific island people that depend on this resource for their livelihood.