Countries leave Pacific tuna commission with license to overfish

Press release - December 7, 2013
Cairns, Australia – The Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission 10th meeting ended with a deadlock over conservation and management measures needed to reverse overfishing of the region’s bigeye tuna stocks. As a result, the meeting failed to take action to end overfishing and instead agreed on weak measures that will result in little or no improvements to the dire state of the region's valuable tuna stocks.

“Big fishing nations especially the US and EU have stubbornly refused to agree to the proposals tabled by Pacific Island Countries and Japan. They have a lot to answer to here, and it seems they only came to Cairns to rubber stamp their own plans for continued overfishing in this region,” said Mark Dia, Regional Oceans Campaigner for Greenpeace Southeast Asia.

The Commission failed to tighten restrictions on the use of highly destructive Fish Aggregation Devices (FADs) in the purse seine fishery over a three year period. A four-month ban on the use of FADs was retained with no further restrictions scheduled for 2014, and additional restrictions for 2015-16 remain uncertain.

“Nobody will benefit from this in the long-term, fish will become harder and harder to catch as stocks decline. Both the EU and US as major markets now need to take steps to ensure sustainable fishing and only buy products that come from operations that do not use fish aggregation devices with purse seine nets,” continued Dia.

The meeting did agree to cap the entry of new purse seine and longline vessels into the fishery by developed fishing nations, a much-needed measure to stop the flood of more and more vessels entering the region in the rush to overfish.

“This was a much-needed and overdue action, but fishing capacity needs to be reduced, not just capped. It's now up to Pacific Island Countries to take matters into their own hands and phase out licensing of distant water fishing vessels. Instead, they must develop a sustainable and locally owned tuna fishing sector,” said Dia. “These are needed to secure the livelihoods of smaller scale and sustainable fishermen such as those that catch tuna using handline.”

The commission also failed to regulate the regions out of control longline fleets and to close important areas of high seas to fishing by these fleets. Transhipments at sea continue as the region is robbed of its resources.

“It was a shame that efforts by Pacific Island Countries to curb increasing longline capacity in the albacore fishery was blocked by China, which led a powerful grouping of east Asian fishing powers that also prevented the closure of the eastern high seas pocket known for illegal and dubious fishing activity,” said Duncan Williams, Greenpeace Australia Pacific Oceans Campaigner.

“Pacific island countries should now take control of their fishery and reduce the licenses available for these longline vessels in their waters to ensure they are under strict conditions when fishing in their high seas. A collective action is needed to lead progress now given the tuna commission has failed to deliver,” said Williams.

MEDIA CONTACTS:

Virginia Llorin, Media Campaigner, Mobile: +639178228793

Mark Dia, Regional Oceans Campaigner, Mobile: +639178430549