Philippines is a great country. "It’s more fun in the Philippines" is an aptly coined slogan for its tourism campaign. Greenpeace put that slogan to the test this morning with an impromptu activity aimed at delivering a similar slogan and message to delegates attending the Ninth Annual Session of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) in Manila. The Greenpeace message is simple. “Ban the use of Fish Aggregation Devices (FADs)” albeit in the purse seine fishery.
The message really underscores the dire nature of the kinds of action required of this Commission to address the failings of fishing in the western pacific. FADs are floating devices that attract both tuna and other species such as endangered sharks and turtles which are scooped up in a net capable of encircling an area the size of four city blocks. Everything in its path has no chance of surviving or escaping its deadly embrace.
Overfishing is almost unavoidable when using these devices especially when a large proportion of tuna that are being scooped up are juveniles - relative babies that haven't had the opportunity to reproduce. The impacts on at least one tuna species (bigeye) is beginning to tell with this fishery now in the red.
The message outside of this highly politicised meeting is being received loud and clear. Last week in Australia, John West announced that as a result of Greenpeace advice, the company will now join a growing list of retailers conscious of sustainability issues affecting tuna fisheries in the Pacific and therefore committed to ensuring that FAD-free tuna to all its consumers.
The announcement sends a louder message to the WCPFC. If you don’t clean up fisheries by eliminating and banning the use of destructive fishing practices such as FADs, then empowered consumers and sustainable conscious retailers will.
Time and tuna is ticking. Let's hope common sense prevails here in Manila and FADs get the attention it well and truly deserves.
Duncan Williams is an oceans campaigner for Greenpeace Australia Pacific.
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