Palau authorities sink illegal fish aggregation devices

Press release - November 8, 2012
08 November 2012, Palau -- Palau’s law enforcement officers, with help from activists from Greenpeace ship MY Esperanza, have sunk 3 fish aggregation devices (FAD) illegally deployed in Palau’s exclusive economic zone. Just 4 days after signing a MOU, the Palau-Greenpeace joint patrol spotted 5 illegal FADs that Palau enforcement officials sought to dispose of.

“Illegal fishing, including the use of FADs, is not only destroying the livelihood of people in Pacific island countries but also sabotaging our beautiful oceans. We are pleased that Greenpeace is joining our patrol to bring illegal fishers to justice, and send a clear message that we will not tolerate pirate fishing,” said Earl Benhart, Palau's marine law enforcement officer who is part of the joint surveillance and enforcement expedition on board the Esperanza.

FADs are used by large purse seine fleets to increase catch levels and efficiency.  FADs entice fish - including already vulnerable juvenile bigeye and yellowfin tunas, sharks and other marine life - to congregate in a single location to be scooped by purse seine nets. With a FAD, large-scale tuna purse seiners can catch in two days what it would take local fishermen an entire year to catch (1).  In 2010 the industry hauled over 2.4 million metric tonnes of tuna, among which, 75% came from purse seine vessels, often using FADs (2).

"The use of FADs in purse seine fishing is devastating tuna and other marine species. It is absolutely outrageous to see 5 FADs placed in the EEZ of Palau, where they are not allowed without specific authorization. We cannot imagine how many FADs there might be in the high seas, where few restrictions apply. If we want to see our tuna stock survive, we must ban FADs right now, not only in Palau, but also everywhere in the western and central Pacific Ocean,” said Farah Obaidullah, oceans campaigner from Greenpeace International.

At the upcoming Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) that will be held on December 2nd – 6th in Manila, Greenpeace will continue to call for a ban on the use of FADs in purse seine fisheries and a 50 percent reduction in the catch of bigeye tuna. To restore the health of the oceans, marine reserves also need to be established in four high seas pockets known as the Pacific Commons, and be declared off limits to fishing. These measures are important to keep valuable fish stocks at a sustainable level and will be reviewed at the upcoming meeting.

“The Pacific is the source of 70% of the world’s tuna, providing coastal communities not only with food but also economic prosperity. Scientists currently estimate that bigeye tuna is overfished in the Pacific, and yellowfin is on the brink of overfishing in the main fishing grounds,” adds Obaidullah.

For years, Greenpeace has been working with Pacific governments to address overfishing and prevent foreign fishing nations from plundering their fishing grounds. Illegal fishing is hurting the economy of Pacific island countries every year. Around US$134 to US$400 million is lost due to illegal fishing for these countries with relatively small GDP.

MY Esperanza is in the final part of Save Our Oceans Asia Pacific Tour after visiting South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Palau, and is now en route to Manila for the upcoming WCPFC meeting.

Greenpeace is campaigning for a global network of marine reserves covering 40% of the world’s oceans and for a more sustainable fishing industry, both necessary steps to restoring our oceans to health. Around the world, Greenpeace is working with retailers and tuna brands across Europe, the Americas and the Pacific to increase the market share of sustainably-sourced tuna.


Media contacts

Fermin Meriang, Press Secretary, Office of the President of Palau,

Renee Chou, Communications Officer on board of MY Esperanza,

Farah Obaidullah, Oceans Campaigner on board of MY Esperanza,

Notes to editors

  1. Pacific Tuna -- Stolen Fish, Stolen Futures
  2. Summary report of the 7th annual meeting of the Scientific Committee of the WCPFC