Longline fisheries are out of line – Greenpeace

Press release - November 21, 2013
Auckland – The world's longline tuna fisheries are out of control, and distant water fishing powers and Pacific island countries need to increase their management and oversight, Greenpeace warns in a new report launched today.

The report, 'Out of line, the global failure of tuna longline fisheries’, (1) outlines the main environmental and social impacts of the tuna longline fishing business, arguing that governments responsible for the management of longline fisheries, either in their capacity as flag States or through Regional Fisheries Management Organisations, are not living up to their obligation to ensure these fleets operate sustainably (2). This includes ensuring adequate control of fishing activities, keeping the capacity of these fleets in line with precautionary limits and minimising the impacts of fishing on the whole ecosystem.

Greenpeace recommends that Pacific island countries should increase their involvement and management of longline fisheries in the region, and ensure they are operated to a much higher standard environmentally and socially, and contribute more economically to the region (3).

The Pacific also needs tougher measures in place to reduce fishing capacity overall and meeting the social and environmental criteria set out by Greenpeace for ocean friendly fishing (4).

“With histories of destructive fishing practices and poor compliance we expect that many of the foreign longliners operating in the Pacific currently would fail to meet our criteria for fishing access,” said Duncan Williams, Oceans Campaigner at Greenpeace Australia Pacific.

Large international trading companies often facilitate supplies and operations of longline fisheries. Taiwanese FCF, Japanese Mitsubishi and Itochu as well as Singapore/US based Tri Marine are the main traders of longline caught tuna, which they sell to markets in Japan, elsewhere in Asia or as canned albacore products in North America.

“The behavior of longline tuna fisheries is scandalous, with regular reports of poor practices such as illegal fishing facilitated by at sea transfers of fish, labour law abuses involving captive crews who can spend several years at sea and the killing of vulnerable species like sharks and turtles,” said Sari Tolvanen, Oceans Campaigner at Greenpeace International.

The New Zealand government is this month considering whether to ban shark finning in New Zealand, a move that Greenpeace is urging (5). Greenpeace recommends this should be implemented in our longline fisheries according to international best practice, which is a requirement for sharks to be release back into the sea or landed whole with their fins naturally attached, and is urging people to make submissions calling for a ban on shark finning (6).

“Here in New Zealand, our government claims to operate a world-class fisheries management system, yet the longline tuna fishery is dragging its heels. Target species include critically endangered southern bluefin tuna, and shark finning is legal and widespread in our longline tuna fishery”, said Karli Thomas, Oceans Campaigner at Greenpeace New Zealand.

In just a few weeks the future of the world’s largest tuna fishery will be decided in Cairns, Australia. Members of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission need to agree on far-reaching cuts in the region's bigeye and yellowfin tuna catches. Longline powers mainly from Taiwan, China, Korea and the US are expected to resist further efforts to limit longline fishing in the high seas – measures that would ensure critical improvements in fisheries management to achieve more sustainable and legal Pacific fisheries.

Greenpeace is calling for sustainability and equity standards to be implemented without delay by the key traders, market players and fishing operators active in the longline tuna sector.

“Action cannot be delayed any longer and it is essential that this fishing business starts accepting proper management and conservation rules. Only by getting larger players to act will it be possible to bring this highly fragmented fishing sector under control,” added Tolvanen.





  1. http://www.greenpeace.org/new-zealand/en/reports/Out-of-line---The-failure-of-the-global-tuna-longline-fisheries/
  2. All tuna species targeted by longline techniques are now either overfished, experiencing overfishing or the fisheries are showing signs of decreased economic profitability as stocks decline. See Table Stock status summary for the key commercial tuna species. Greenpeace Report Out of line, the global failure of tuna longline fisheries’, p. 6
  3. http://www.greenpeace.org/new-zealand/en/reports/Transforming-Tuna-Fisheries-in-Pacific-Island-Countries/, Greenpeace Report, August 2013
  4. http://www.greenpeace.org/new-zealand/en/reports/Fewer-boats-more-fish/,Greenpeace Report, November 2013
  5. The New Zealand Ministry of Primary Industries draft National Plan of Action – Sharks is available online, with a deadline for public submissions of Sunday 8 December 2013. http://www.fish.govt.nz/en-nz/Consultations/npoa+sharks+2013/default.htm
  6. A simple online submission calling for a ban on shark finning in New Zealand can be made at www.greenpeace.org.nz/sharks