Pacific solidarity essential to save tuna stocks

Press release - November 28, 2008
New Zealand must support efforts by other Pacific countries to stop the plunder of tuna by foreign fishing boats if the region is to avoid a similar collapse to that of the northern tuna fisheries, says Greenpeace.

Captive Bluefin Tuna inside a transport cage. Greenpeace is calling on the countries of the Mediterranean to protect bluefin tuna with marine reserves in their breeding and feeding areas.

Members of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) are meeting in Marrakech, Morocco, this week to discuss the crisis situation facing the Mediterranean bluefin tuna fishery (1).

A similar meeting is scheduled for three weeks' time in Korea to discuss the management of the Pacific tuna fisheries. New Zealand has four purse seine vessels that fish for tuna in the Pacific during part of the year (2).

Greenpeace New Zealand oceans campaigner Karli Thomas says that action must be taken now to avoid a similar crisis in the Pacific, but New Zealand has not yet lent support to efforts by Pacific nations to protect their fisheries (3).

"The bluefin tuna fishery in the Mediterranean has reached crisis point, where not only Greenpeace but a group of fisheries scientists - including the head of the Pacific Tuna Commission - have called for the fishery to be closed immediately," she said.

Many of the same fishing nations that have contributed to the failure of ICCAT in the Mediterranean Sea will be at the meeting in Korea, negotiating with Pacific countries on the management of Pacific tuna stocks.

"Pacific countries, including Australia and New Zealand, are the custodians of the planet's last healthy tuna populations. Strong management is needed now, so that the region's tuna fisheries do not go the same way as fisheries in the Mediterranean and elsewhere in the world."

Greenpeace is supporting a Pacific Island proposal for three pockets of international waters - known as the 'donut holes' - to be designated marine reserves and protected from fishing and other exploitation. Greenpeace is also advocating a fifty per cent reduction in fishing effort, and steps to eliminate pirate fishing and the wasteful by-catch of other marine life. (4)

"The areas of international waters are effectively 'parking zones for pirates', and this is undermining the management of the tuna fisheries in the region. Pacific countries and Australia are backing a proposal to close those areas to fishing, and New Zealand must add our support as well."

"Pacific solidarity has achieved so much in the past; including a nuclear free South Pacific. New Zealand must not take a position that looks after the interests of a few fishing vessels at the expense of the rest of the Pacific. The new Minister of fisheries, Phil Heatley, has a great opportunity to support this regional initiative at the meeting of the Pacific Tuna Commission next month," concluded Ms Thomas.

Greenpeace advocates the creation of an effectively enforced network of marine reserves, protecting 40 per cent of the world's oceans - with regulated, sustainable fishing in other areas - as the long-term solution to overfishing and the recovery of marine life in our overexploited oceans.

Other contacts: Karli Thomas Greenpeace New Zealand oceans campaigner 021 905 582 Suzette Jackson Greenpeace New Zealand communications manager 021 614 899

Notes: (1) The International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) is meeting this week in Marrakech, Morocco. A recent performance review of ICCAT, written by a panel of experts appointed by ICCAT itself, states that the management of the bluefin tuna fishery in the Mediterranean by ICCAT contracting party countries (CPCs) is “widely seen as an international disgrace”. The panel recommended “the suspension of fishing on bluefin tuna in the eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean until the CPCs fully comply with ICCAT recommendations on bluefin”. (2) The Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) will meet from 8-12 December in Busan, Republic of Korea. New Zealand has four purse seine vessels fishing for tuna in the area beyond New Zealand’s waters, outlined in the annual report to the Commission: A proposal to introduce stronger management measures, including closing the pockets of international waters to fishing, was put forward by the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), Kiribati, Nauru, Palau, Papua New Guinea (PNG), Republic of Marshall Islands (RMI), the Solomon Islands, and Tuvalu. This proposal now has the support of fifteen Pacific countries, including Australia, but New Zealand has not yet supported it. (4) For more information on Greenpeace’s proposal to strengthen Pacific fisheries management, see the report “Closing time for overfishing – Creating Pacific high seas marine reserves” available online at: