Pacific zones closed but overfishing continues

December 13, 2008

Busan, Korea, Australia - The outcome of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) is a failed compromise - one which is too weak to stop the overfishing of the Pacific bigeye and yellowfin tuna.
However Greenpeace applauded the positive decision to close two of the high seas areas between Pacific Island Countries to purse seine fishing starting in 2010. The WCPFC will consider the closure of the third such area in 2009.

Greenpeace has campaigned for these areas to be designated as marine reserves in order to support sustainable fisheries, protect Pacific marine life and to end pirate fishing in the region.

Scientists have warned since 2001 that bigeye and yellowfin tuna in the Pacific are being overfished and recommended a minimum of 30 percent fishing reduction for 2009. Yet the WCPFC only agreed to a compromise measure - to cut fishing on bigeye with a range of measures including a 10 percent reduction in longline catch.

The fishing industry resisted moves to ensure the long-term sustainability of the fishery, despite strong economic reasons to do so. 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 fishing to be halved 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 in the tuna commission ensured that many decisions here were diluted to the lowest common denominator of agreement," said Lagi Toribau, Greenpeace Australia Pacific Oceans Campaigner. "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."

Overfishing in the Pacific has worsened to a state that several fishing industry representatives in the meeting actually called fishing nations to follow the advice of scientists and reduce fishing.

"The political process is still unwilling to follow the 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 Greenpeace Pacific Political Advisor Seni Nabou.