Pacific islands act to save tuna

Feature story - May 21, 2008
Finally, some good news for tuna stocks and a first step towards protecting the Pacific Commons for future generations! Eight Pacific island countries have taken the most significant action ever to combat overfishing in the region.

For years fishing fleets from distant countries have plundered the Pacific's tuna, ignoring the legitimate concerns of Pacific island countries. In December of last year, Japan, Taiwan, Korea and mainland China all blocked conservation measures at the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) meeting. And as we have witnessed over the past two months at sea in the Pacific Commons - their fleets are continuing to decimate the tuna stocks and threaten the future of Pacific livelihoods.

But the tide has turned.

New rules 

With this new agreement, foreign fishing vessels licensed to fish in the waters of eight Pacific island countries will be banned from fishing in two regions of the Pacific Commons adjacent to these countries. This is a giant stride towards these areas becoming marine reserves and towards the protection of Pacific tuna. This is exactly what we have been pushing for since 2005.

The eight countries (Parties to the Nauru Agreement) include the Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Tuvalu. Most of the tuna stocks from the Pacific, valued at $3 billion a year, come from the waters of these countries.

Pacific Commons map

The orange areas mark the Pacific Commons, which we want to see protected. The grey areas mark the EEZs -- the national fishing waters. ©Greenpeace

No more throwing back the low-value fish 

Foreign fishing vessels will also be required to retain their full catches. This will cut the time fishing boats spend at sea and the amount of tuna they catch. At present they throw away non-tuna species to make room in their holds for the more valuable catch. It will also be compulsory to carry fisheries observers on board at all times. The use of fish aggregation devices (used to attract juvenile bigeye and yellowfin tuna) will be banned in these countries' waters for three months of the year. This is a conservation measure designed to discourage harvesting of these highly migratory species. These new rules will take effect on June 15, 2008.

The Esperanza has been in these areas for the last seven weeks highlighting this issue.  We have taken action against fishing fleets from Taiwan, Korea, the US and the Philippines. We are calling for the these areas to become no-take marine reserves and - politicians willing - that will become a reality before the year is out.

Will we see similar protection of other tuna fisheries? Well we're working on it. Our ship Arctic Sunrise is on a three-month tour of the Mediterranean demanding protection for the tuna fisheries there as well -- and marine reserves are the answer again.  

Greenpeace in action to protect tuna

First step towards healthy oceans for a healthy planet

Protecting the Pacific Commons would be the first step toward achieving our overall campaign goal:  to protect 40 percent of our oceans with a global network of marine reserves.  Keeping the oceans alive is essential to keeping our planet alive. As global warming takes its toll on our already stressed marine ecosystems, we need to protect the most vulnerable areas so they stand a better chance of survival. In order to ensure the world has fish in the future, we need marine reserves now.

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