Tuesday, 22 February 2011 7:59 AM

Huge Win for our Oceans!

Can you picture 4.5 million km² of ocean? It's not easy - it's more than ten times the Great Barrier Reef or about the size of the current European Union.

Now try to imagine banning an environmental crime in an area that size. It's quite bewildering, but eight Pacific Island nations have shown that it can be done.

Last year, eight small countries made a mammoth decision that came into effect in January. After years of negotiating how to save the region's declining tuna stocks, they officially banned 4.5 million km² of Pacific Ocean to destructive purse seine fishing.

Purse seining is responsible for more than three quarters of tuna caught in the Pacific. This harmful method scoops up whole marine areas with nets the size of several city blocks. Not only does it decimate tuna stocks, endangered turtles and sharks get trapped in the nets and die.

The historic decision is thanks to years of Greenpeace campaigning in the region. It's a huge step towards achieving our goal of banning all destructive fishing techniques and establishing a global network of marine reserves covering 40% of the world's oceans. The decision is also significant as it represents a strengthening of the will of Pacific Island nations to stand up to powerful foreign fishing fleets in order to protect their waters.

While our oceans face a crisis that becomes more urgent every day, it is reassuring to know that key decisions can still be made that will help turn the tide.

Australian let down

While Pacific Island nations take brave steps to save the region's declining Bigeye and Yellowfin Tuna stocks, Australia seems to have lost its backbone. Last Friday at 5pm, the Australian Fisheries Management Authority quietly revealed plans to keep fishing quotas of Bigeye and Yellowfin Tuna way above recommended limits.

The fishing body made this decision against the advice of the government's own fisheries scientists and in full knowledge that increased quotas could push these fish to the brink of extinction.

Lead members of CSIRO fisheries science team repeatedly expressed concern that high quotas could undermine both the sustainability and profitability of the fishery. They also questioned Australia's right retain high quota levels given that neighbouring Pacific fisheries are urgently decreasing the catch levels to save the tuna species of our region.

When the government makes announcements at 5pm on a Friday it's because it's a really bad decision.

We're calling on the Minister for Fisheries, Senator Ludwig, to stop these quotas being turned into law. He has a responsibility to protect Pacific tuna, and to do so, we need to lower our catch rates, not increase them.

What we are doing

- The Rainbow Warrior II, is visiting Taiwan, Hong Kong and Korea as part of the international Greenpeace campaign to defend the Pacific. Ron Ronaivakulua s an activist from Fiji and is representing the South Pacific onboard the RWII. Read his latest blog

Take Action

- Every tuna brand can stop this devastation by refusing to sell tuna caught using destructive methods Please send an email to Australian tuna brands and tell them to use sustainably and equitably-caught tuna.

Letters to the Editor All Letters
By STEVE BANI Vura Heights, East Honiara
By GEOFFREY MAURIASI USP, Lacuala Campus, Fiji
By CHARLES KOULI Gizo, Western Province