Tuna Commission weakens Pacific tuna protection in Guam meeting

Philippines expected to ensure conservation measures, will host next round of talks

Press release - April 3, 2012
Protection of dwindling tuna stocks in the Pacific Ocean now has to rely on weak measures that could put bigeye tuna populations in free fall to depletion. This developed as a result of breakdown in agreements on necessary conservation measures during the meeting of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) this past week in Guam. Instead of creating a rescue plan to ensure the survival of the world’s largest tuna fishery, WCPFC member countries ended up with very temporary measures that undermine previous ones meant to keep tuna stocks from further decline.

“The outcome of the meeting is a very disappointing step backwards, unravelling years of work to protect tuna populations in the Pacific. People in the region rely on tuna for food, jobs, and economic prosperity.  The Commission’s decisions go against the wants and needs of the region,” said Mark Dia, Greenpeace Southeast Asia’s Oceans Campaign Manager.

Members failed to agree on stronger conservation measures, which would have included the extension of the closure of the Pacific Commons [1] to purse seine fishing, the continuation of a regional ban on fish aggregating devices (FADs) in purse seine fishing from three to four months, and an additional 10 percent reduction in long-line fishing.  Pacific Island Countries also proposed the closure of the Pacific Commons to long-line fishing, but this was stalled by other countries, particularly South Korea.

The members were able to agree on protecting endangered oceanic white-tip sharks and on a ban on setting of purse seine nets on whales and dolphins, but Japan blocked a proposal to ban setting nets on whale-sharks (“butanding” in Filipino).

The closure of the Pacific Commons to purse seine fishing for the past two years had helped reduce pirate fishing in the region and supported Pacific Island Countries’ efforts to reap more equitable financial benefits from the fishery.  However, the closure is effectively lifted starting this April, with the Philippines having negotiated for 36 of its vessels to resume fishing in the Pacific Commons, while other distant-water fishing fleets will continue to operate in the Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs) of Pacific Island Countries.  The concession comes with stringent requirements for the Philippines, such as the limit to the number of vessels, proper reporting procedures, and the installation of satellite-based monitoring systems to track where each of the 36 ships are at any given time.

“The Philippines has been given concessions, but is expected to ensure conservation measures within its territorial waters as its contribution to protecting tuna populations.  Failure will not only result in less tuna, but will affect the livelihoods of everyone who depend on tuna fisheries in the Pacific,” Dia added.  “All eyes will now be on the Philippines to make good its commitments to conservation and management measures.”  This is especially true now that the country is hosting the next round of WCPFC meetings in December.

With the WCPFC’s failure to act, eight Pacific Island Countries have signified that they will enforce protection of the Pacific Commons as a condition to their allowing access to territorial waters.

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, Australia and the Americas to increase the market share of sustainably-sourced tuna.


  • Mark Dia, GPSEA oceans campaigner, +639178430549, (632) 3321807 loc 111,
  • JP Agcaoili, GPSEA media campaigner, +639176312750, (632) 3321807 loc 109,
  • Sari Tolvanen, Greenpeace International oceans campaigner, in Guam, +31 655 125 480
  • Steve Smith, Greenpeace International communications, in Amsterdam, +31 643 787 359
  • GPSEA photo desk: Grace Duran-Cabus, +639178860662, (632) 3321807 loc 109,



  1. http://www.greenpeace.org/international/pacificcommons
For more information about Greenpeace at the WCPFC, please visit http://www.greenpeace.org/publications/savepacifictuna