The Big Eye is on Guam
by Kate Smolski
December 2, 2007
Not too long ago I remember reading that fish stocks in the Pacific were relatively healthy and that it was the only region in the world where tuna was not being overfished. But a lot has changed in just a few years and scientists are now saying that Pacific tuna stocks are severely threatened from overfishing and that the situation is critical. The Pacific countries are now faced with a very difficult challenge and the fate of many economies is at stake.
I am in Guam right now at the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) meeting where more than 20 nations will be negotiating agreements on the region’s fisheries, which mainly consist of 4 tuna species (yellow fin, big-eye, skip jack and albacore). The greatest concern is over the decline in yellow fin and big eye stocks which are the tunas that are sold to the sushi and sashimi markets.
Greenpeace has an observer delegation attending the meeting that consists of 5 oceans campaigners. Seni and Lagi are here from the Greenpeace Australia Pacific office in Fiji and Jason is here from the Sydney office. Sari is here from Greenpeace International in Amsterdam and Phil from Greenpeace USA arrives this evening. Inside the meeting they will be monitoring the negotiations and outside they are meeting with the delegates and encouraging the best solutions.
I am your trusty blogger for the meeting and will be letting you know exactly what happens here in Guam. You regularly get to see the heroic actions on the water but so rarely hear about the heroes who work long hours lobbying countries at important meetings like this. Of course the adrenalin levels aren’t quite the same but that doesn’t mean what goes on here isn’t exciting.
Pacific Island countries depend on tuna resources for income and food and this region has the most productive tuna fishery in the world providing over half of the total global tuna supply. Decisions made here will affect the lives of millions and determine the fate of a massive ecosystem. I don’t think you can get much more exciting than that!
We’re calling upon the WCPFC to get serious about protecting the Pacific’s valuable fish stocks by cutting fishing effort in the region by 50%, banning all trans shipments at sea (this is when fish is off-loaded onto another boat, which allows vessels to avoid reporting their total catch by not needing to come into port) and establishing a no-take marine reserve for species managed by the WCPFC. Indications suggest that some of the industrial fishing nations will block efforts to conserve the tuna and already it seems that some of them are making threats to cut the funding of the Commission if expensive measures are put into place to regulate the fisheries. If only they were as keen on cutting fishing effort as they are to cut the funding of the Commission, which only has 8 staff and costs, les than 0.12% of the annual value of the fishery.
The meeting officially starts tomorrow and I will be making a radical physical transformation that I will tell you about later. I’ll be posting an update on Tuesday.