Greenpeace urges international support for first high seas no-take area in the Pacific

Press release - 6 October, 2010
Pohnpei, Micronesia, 6 October 2010 - Greenpeace is calling on Governments which are part of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) to support the Cook Islands plan to close off a large area of international waters (1) to all fishing in order to restore Pacific tuna fisheries, protect biodiversity and eliminate pirate fishing. The meeting being held in the Federated States of Micronesia ended yesterday.

The Cook Islands’ proposal to ban all fishing from a pocket of high seas bordering the waters of Cook Islands, French Polynesia and Kiribati, follows repeated incidents of illegal fishing over the past years. (2) If approved at the annual WCPFC meeting, in December, it would be the first area of international waters in the Pacific to be closed to all fishing, an important step towards creating a much needed network of fully protected marine reserves in the region and to restoring tuna populations and marine biodiversity (3).

“Come December fishing powers such as Japan, Korea, Taiwan and China will need to show their support for the closures and demonstrate that they are responsible fishing partners and serious about their international commitments to restore marine biodiversity by creating marine reserves,” said Duncan Williams, Greenpeace Australia Pacific oceans campaigner, present at the meeting.

If approved, the proposal will further strengthen the conservation benefits efforts of the the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA), a group of eight Pacific Island Countries, whose waters hold the majority of the region’s tuna stocks (4).  The PNA has set new rules to prevent vessels licensed to fish in their waters from purse seine fishing in the four high seas pockets as well as in a large open high sea area from early 2011. (5)

The Commission also urgently needs to address the use  Fish Aggregating Devices (FADs) in purse seine fisheries. This wasteful fishing technology results in bycatch of endangered sharks, turtles and juvenile tuna – in particular bigeye, a tuna species which is now severely overfished (6). Countries are currently committed to a three month ban, but scientific data has demonstrated this is not long enough.

“It’s all very well to ban Fish Aggregation Devices for three months, but what’s the excuse for the decimation of marine life that occurs when they are put to use for the other nine months of the year? Countries must urgently agree to ban this practice year-round” said Sari Tolvanen of Greenpeace International.


For more information contact:

Duncan Williams, oceans campaigner Greenpeace Australia Pacific in Pohnpei on +691 923 3268

Sari Tolvanen, Greenpeace International Oceans Campaigner, in Amsterdam +31655125480


Notes to editor:

(1) The area is one of four pockets of high seas in the Pacific region, numbered 3 in the map available here.

(2) One of the illegal fishing incidents in Cook Islands waters was documented by Greenpeace in its 2009 Defending Our Pacific expedition. The incident resulted in a settlement of $1 million to the Cook Islands and $400,000 to neighbouring Tokelau.

Greenpeace Defending Our Pacific expedition reports, documenting and taking action against IUU fishing activity in the high seas, are available online at:


(3) The key role the Pacific high seas areas can play in a global network of marine reserves aimed at ensuring the protection of our oceans is described in the “Emergency Oceans Rescue Plan” - a roadmap for policy-makers to create a global network of marine reserves to cover 40% of the world’s oceans, published by Greenpeace ahead of the Convention on Biological Diversity due to take place in Japan later this month. The “Emergency Oceans Rescue Plan” report can be found at: 

(4) The PNA countries are Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Tuvalu. Together these countries account for around 25% of the world’s supply of tuna.

(5) The PNA rules will come into effect in January 2011 and place 4.5 million square kilometers of waters off limits to PNA licensed purse seiners.

(6) Bigeye tuna has been assessed at 17% of its former levels. This is only marginally above the level of Atlantic bluefin tuna (15%) – a species that is listed as endangered and critically endangered in its two main fishing grounds, and was wiped out entirely, along with its fishing industries, in the North and Norwegian Seas and off the coast of Brazil.