July 6, 2010

Greenpeace declared the outcome of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission a failed compromise – one which is too weak to stop the overfishing of the Pacific bigeye and yellowfin tuna – but applauds the positive decision to close two of the high seas areas between Pacific Island Countries to purse seine fishing starting in 2010. The Commission will also consider the closure of the third such area in 2009. Greenpeace has been campaigning for these areas to be designated as marine reserves in order to support sustainable fisheries, protect Pacific marine life and to end pirate fishing in the region.

"The Commission failed to reduce fishing to what scientists say is needed to preserve marine ecosystems, but a strong effort by the U.S. delegation was key to getting vital protections for high seas areas," John Hocevar, Greenpeace Oceans Campaign Director in the U.S.

Scientists have been warning since 2001 that bigeye and yellowfin stocks in the Pacific are in decline and recommended a minimum of 30 percent fishing reduction for 2009. Yet the Commission only agreed to a compromise measure to cut fishing on bigeye with a range of measures including a 10 percent reduction in longline catch.

The fishing industry resisted moves to ensure the long-term sustainability of the fishery, despite strong economic reasons to do so. Recent studies indicate that the fishing industry is undermining its own profits by having too many fishing vessels on the water and by depleting stocks to the point that fish are harder to catch. Greenpeace called for a precautionary 50 percent reduction to be implemented in order to ensure both the long term sustainability and profitability of the fishery.

"A handful of fishing nations are sending entire species into oblivion. Consensus-based decision making ensured that many decisions here were diluted to the lowest common denominator of agreement. Short term interests ruled. And the needs of the Pacific Island States, whose livelihoods and economies depend on tuna, have been relegated to a minority voice," said Lagi Toribau, Greenpeace Australia Pacific Oceans Campaigner.

Overfishing in the Pacific has become so bad that several fishing industry representatives in the meeting actually called fishing nations to follow the advice of scientists and reduce fishing.

"The political process is still unwilling to follow the science.  If the industry wants to ensure fish for the future, Greenpeace is calling on retailers and fish purchasers  to stop  buying all overfished bluefin, bigeye and yellowfin tuna as well as skipjack caught using fish aggregation devices," said Sari Tolvanen of Greenpeace International.

Greenpeace is campaigning for a global network of fully protected marine reserves covering 40 percent of our oceans to protect our seas from the ravages of climate change, to restore the health of fish stocks and prevent habitat destruction.  Greenpeace has been campaigning for tuna protection in Korea with the Korean Federation for the Environmental Movement.

VVPR info: Contacts: Jane Kochersperger, Media Officer, Greenpeace, (202) 680-3798; John Hocevar, Oceans Campaign Director, (512) 577-3868

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