Greenpeace urges Cairns tuna summit to end overfishing and control fleets

Press release - December 1, 2013
Suva, Fiji - Greenpeace activists today deployed a floating banner at a port in the Pacific, reading: “WCPFC Act Now! Fewer boats, more fish”. This message is directed at the members of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC), who are meeting in Cairns, Australia next week. Greenpeace is urging the Commission to halt the entry of new industrial fishing vessels into the region and to introduce sharp cuts to tuna catches as recommended by scientists.

Pacific tuna stocks are in decline with bigeye, yellowfin and albacore tunas now all in need of urgent management action to ensure future sustainability and livelihoods for the region’s vulnerable coastal states. Countries like the Philippines, a major tuna player and a full voting member of the Commission, will be closely monitoring the discussions and ensure that the sustainability of tuna stocks will be a top priority, instead of asking for exemptions to conservation measures.

“This is the 10th meeting of the Commission (1) and it is time that its members stop ignoring the science and put strong precautionary measures in place to ensure overfishing is halted and that the number of vessels in the fishery is urgently capped and capacity reduced,” said Mark Dia, Regional Oceans Campaigner for Greenpeace Southeast Asia.

Much of the blame for overfishing is placed on the large international purse seine fleet originating from the US, Taiwan, Korea, Spain, China and Japan that for much of their catch relies on destructive fish aggregation devices or FADs. The purse seine fishery was responsible for over two thirds of the more than 2.5 million tons of tuna fished out of the Pacific last year alone (2).

This method catches large amounts of juvenile tuna leading to steep stock declines, particularly of bigeye and yellowfin tunas.

“Purse seine vessels can fish without using destructive FADs, their use needs to be banned now. Tuna caught this way is already being widely rejected by consumers all over the world and the industry can benefit from the increased demand for more sustainably caught products if they act now,” added Dia.

Greenpeace warns that coastal communities dependent on tuna for food and livelihoods are already suffering due to inaction by the Commission. Just a few days ago the Alliance of Tuna Handliners from General Santos City, Philippines called on the WCPFC to act now in order to save the stocks and the people who depend on them (3).

“Unfortunately the little people are forgotten in these negotiations as the multimillion dollar company CEOs exert pressure on country delegations to block progressive measures. We certainly hope governments here this week act to ensure sustainable fisheries and livelihoods instead of just protecting the next executive pay check of the rich and the powerful,” continued Dia.

The region's longline fleets-- catching tuna for sashimi and the American albacore market-- are also largely seen as being out of control and unregulated, with rampant under-reporting and illegal fishing taking place, especially in the high seas (4).

“For too long the massive foreign longline fleets in the region have plundered fish with impunity. They now need to be brought under control, catches reduced, number of vessels reduced to sustainable and economical levels and the high seas pockets closed to all fishing,” said Sari Tolvanen, Oceans Campaigner for Greenpeace International.

“As a way forward, we are calling on the Philippine government to take the lead by implementing laws on capacity reduction so that our own seas will have time to recover, securing the livelihood of thousands of Filipino fishermen, and ensuring more fish for the future,” added Dia.

Greenpeace is campaigning for a sustainable fishing industry and a global network of marine reserves covering 40% of the world’s oceans as the necessary steps to leaving future generations with oceans able to sustain life on earth.

For more information about Greenpeace’s efforts at the WCPFC, click here.

Notes:

(1) http://www.wcpfc.int/meetings/10th-regular-session-commission

(2) http://www.wcpfc.int/node/3561

(3) http://bit.ly/ath-handliners

(4) http://www.greenpeace.org/international/out-of-line/

For interviews, please contact:

Virginia Llorin, Media Campaigner, , +639178228793

Mark Dia, Regional Oceans Campaigner at Greenpeace Southeast Asia, , +639178430549