Bangkok, 30 May 2008: Greenpeace today challenged the world's tuna industry to prevent its own self-destruction, to ensure not only healthy fish stocks but to increase the long-term profitability of the industry.Greenpeace addressed the industry at the biennial World Tuna Trade Conference and Exhibition, Tuna 2008, taking place in Thailand. With Greenpeace ships currently taking action against tuna overfishing in the Pacific and the Mediterranean, and Greenpeace activists having recently shut down tuna stalls at the Brussels Seafood Expo, this message underscores the fact that despite our disagreements and confrontations, the ultimate goals of conservation and industry are not in conflict.
"As world tuna stocks continue to decline because of appalling mismanagement and overfishing, the industry is on the brink of economic collapse," warned Greenpeace Australia-Pacific oceans campaigner Jason Collins. "Greenpeace advocates marine reserves for environmental reasons. But the industry, for economic reasons, should be with us on this one - demanding the creation of marine reserves would not only protect spawning and breeding areas but future catches."
Tuna fisheries that were considered healthy just a few years ago, such as those of the Western and Central Pacific Ocean, have joined the downhill global trend due to rampant overfishing. Recent research published in Science (1) found that the Western and Central Pacific bigeye and yellowfin tuna fisheries will have a higher economic value if the fishing effort is reduced. Such a reduction of effort should also maintain stocks at ecologically sustainable levels.
"This analysis makes it clear that conservation and business interests go hand in hand. Both goals can be attained by catching less fish in the short term," said Collins.
In a recent Greenpeace report: Taking Tuna out of the Can: A Rescue Plan for the World's Favourite Fish (2) Greenpeace outlined the steps required to put the global tuna industry on a sustainable and equitable footing. The call includes a minimum 50% reduction in the amount of tuna caught worldwide and even more for species faced with imminent commercial extinction, such as the Atlantic bluefin.
Over the last two months, the Greenpeace ship Esperanza has been highlighting the overfishing of bigeye and yellowfin tuna and defending the international waters between the Pacific island countries as no-take marine reserves. During their time at sea, the activists have taken peaceful direct action against fishing fleets from Taiwan, Korea, the US and the Philippines. Just three days ago, activists in the Pacific protested against the rapacious appetite and catch of the biggest super-super seiner ever built the Spanish-owned, and flagged Albatun Tres.
Last month, 80 activists from 15 countries shut down five tuna suppliers at the Brussels Seafood Expo, demanding that suppliers and retailers take steps to ensure that the fish they sell comes from legal and sustainable sources.
"The race to catch the planet's remaining tuna is on. With the use of fish aggregation devices and vessels that can catch as much tuna in one trip as some Pacific Islands do in a year, tuna and other marine life caught up in the nets and hooks stand no chance," said Sari Tolvanen, Greenpeace International campaigner on board the Esperanza. "The industry is committing commercial suicide and needs to start reducing the overcapacity of their fleets and ban the use of fish aggregation devices urgently" said Tolvanen.
Meanwhile, the Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise is in the Mediterranean tackling the critical overfishing of northern bluefin tuna. Unsustainable management and illegal over fishing (3) have brought this fishery to the brink of collapse. Greenpeace is calling for a complete closure of the fishery until proper management and enforcement are in place, including marine reserves for the Mediterranean breeding areas of the bluefin tuna(4).
Greenpeace advocates the creation of a network of marine reserves, protecting 40 percent of the world's oceans, as the long term solution to overfishing and the recovery of our overexploited oceans.
(1) Grafton RQ, Kompas T, Hilborn RW (2007), "Economics of overexploitation revisited", Science 318: 1601
(3) The International Commission for the Conservations of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT), responsible for the management of the fishery has repeatedly set catch limits at levels twice as high as their own scientific committee recommends. In addition to the unsustainable legal catch, the fishery is further threatened by
rampant pirate fishing. For example in August 2007 the French fleet had overfished their quota by 180%, catching 10,165 tonnes of tuna though their quota is only 5,593 tonnes.
(4) Images from Arctic Sunrise in action in the Mediterranean today:
Folder: Cypriot Channel