Friday, 19 December 2008 11:26 AM

Pacific Tuna Commission Gives a Glimmer of Hope for the World's Favourite Fish

Greenpeace declared the outcome of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission a failed compromise - one which is too weak to stop the overfishing of the Pacific bigeye and yellowfin tuna.

Greenpeace has, however, applauded the positive decision to close two of the high seas pockets(1) between Pacific Island Countries to purse seine fishing from 2010.

The Commission will also consider the closure of the third such area in 2009. Greenpeace has been campaigning for these areas to be designated as marine reserves in order to support sustainable fisheries, protect Pacific marine life and to clean up pirate fishing in the region.

Scientists have been warning since 2001 that the bigeye and yellowfin stocks in the Pacific are in decline and recommended a minimum of 30% fishing effort reduction for 2009. Yet the commission only agreed to a compromise measure to cut fishing on bigeye with a range of measures including a 10% reduction in longline catch.

"Australia, New Zealand, the Pacific Island countries, and the US all put up a strong front, but the resistance from Japan, Korea, China, Chinese Taipei and Philippines meant the Commission failed to reduce catch enough to make a difference." said Lagi Toribau, Greenpeace Australia Pacific Oceans Campaigner.

The big fishing powers resisted moves to ensure the long-term sustainability of the fishery, despite strong economic reasons to do so (2). Recent studies indicate that the fishing industry is undermining its own profits by having too many fishing vessels on the water and by depleting stocks to the point that fish are harder to catch. Greenpeace called for a precautionary 50% effort reduction to be implemented in order to ensure both the long term sustainability and profitability of the fishery.

"A handful of fishing nations are sending entire species into oblivion. Consensus based decision making ensured that many decisions here were diluted to the lowest common denominator of agreement. Short term interests ruled. And the needs of the Pacific Island States, whose livelihoods and economies depend on tuna, have been relegated to a minority voice," continued Toribau.

Members of the industry itself were present in the meeting called upon the fishing nations to follow the advice of scientists and reduce fishing.

"The political process is still unable to follow science. If the industry wants to ensure fish for the future, Greenpeace is calling on retailers and fish purchasers to stop buying all overfished bluefin, bigeye and yellowfin tuna as well as skipjack caught using fish aggregation devices," said Sari Tolvanen of Greenpeace International.

Greenpeace is campaigning for a global network of fully protected marine reserves covering 40% of our oceans as an essential way to protect our seas from the ravages of climate change, to restore the health of fish stocks and protect ocean life from habitat destruction and collapse. Greenpeace has been campaigning for tuna protection in Korea with the Korean Federation for the Environmental Movement.

Source: Greenpeace Press Release