December 07, 2009 Media Release

Papeete, Tahiti, French Polynesia - Greenpeace and local NGOs (1) today marked the start of the 6th regular session of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) with a traditional Polynesian canoe ceremony and a call for participating countries to take historic steps to protect the world's largest ocean and its rapidly dwindling tuna stocks.
Pacific bigeye and yellowfin tuna are in decline, and only by taking the bold steps of closing loopholes for illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing and restricting fishing to sustainable levels will the commission be able to shift management towards a more ecosystem-based approach, and create large no-take areas that will protect all marine life of the Pacific ocean.

"Pacific Island Countries have agreed to (2) support the closure of four large areas of international waters that lie in between the Pacific Island Countries. These areas act as a loophole for pirate fishing and are also rich in biodiversity," said Lagi Toribau of Greenpeace Australia Pacific.

"Closing these areas to all fishing would protect the largest stretch of ocean in history, immediately turn the Commission into a leading global conservation body and demonstrate that fishing nations are serious about saving tuna and their own fishing industries."

Greenpeace recently completed an eight-week expedition to pockets of the high seas(3) it has proposed for marine reserves, where it recorded legal and illegal over-fishing activities(4). "These areas are especially vulnerable to plundering by large long-line fleets originating from Taiwan, Korea and Japan, and evidence that they contribute to regional pirate fishing activities keeps piling up," said Sari Tolvanen of Greenpeace International. "Urgent action to halt overfishing and stop the decline of Pacific bigeye and yellowfin tuna is needed."

Despite calls from scientists to reduce catches since 2001, an all-time record high was hauled out of the Pacific just last year. Fleet capacity is growing and fishing techniques are becoming ever more efficient, leading to far more rapid depletion of tuna fisheries than ever before.

"The rush to pluck the last tuna from the Pacific must be halted, and fishing effort in the region halved immediately to ensure sustainability and long-term economic potential. Tuna is the oil of the Pacific and its life line, and we cannot afford to let this resource and our futures go the way of the bluefin," concluded Toribau.

Greenpeace is also calling on the Commission to agree to a full ban on transferring fish catches at sea, a practice that facilitates pirate fishing, and to agree to a full ban on the use of Fish Aggregation Devices (FADs). The devices, in combination with purse seine fishing, facilitate the capture of vast amounts of juvenile tuna and threaten endangered marine life such as sharks and turtles.

Greenpeace is campaigning for a global network of fully protected marine reserves, covering 40% of our oceans. They are essential to ensure clean and healthy oceans and protect marine life from overfishing and habitat destruction. Healthy oceans also play a vital role in building resilience against the devastating effects of climate change.