Tuna plunder to continue as governments fail to clamp down on overfishing – Greenpeace
Manila – Failing on their mandate to protect Pacific fish populations, governments of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) allowed on Thursday the continued plunder of the region’s declining bigeye tuna stocks while also putting yellowfin, skipjack and albacore tuna at risk of overfishing.
Tuna populations are falling globally due to unrestrained growth in the industrial fishing industry and the use of harmful fishing methods.
“This meeting was a disaster for the Pacific. The governments here should be held accountable for failing to protect vulnerable species that form the backbone of many economies in the Pacific, and provide food and livelihoods to coastal communities across the region. The big corporate players won and will continue their plunder for short-term profits at the expense of our oceans’ health,” said Lagi Toribau, head of the Greenpeace delegation to the WCPFC.
Among the WCPFC summit outcomes:
- Inaction to sufficiently halt overfishing of Pacific bigeye and yellowfin tuna, two of the most vulnerable Pacific tuna species.
- Failure to fully close the Pacific Commons to all fishing – leaving the region vulnerable to illegal fishing activities as documented by Greenpeace’s recently concluded Esperanza ship tour.
- Failure to sufficiently extend a ban on the use of destructive fish aggregating devices (FADs) in purse seine fisheries. A one-month extension was added to the current three-month ban. A very weak management plan to attempt to bring this destructive fishing method under control was discussed.
- The region’s large and poorly regulated longline fleets were left with little controls and only the Chinese fleet was required to reduce its fishing activities by 10% in 2013.
- Efforts to stop the landing of illegally-caught fish in ports were also rejected.
The WCPFC also failed to enact strong fishing limits and regulations to stop shark finning and the incidental catches of sharks in longline fisheries.
The meeting did agree to protect whale sharks from being used by purse seine vessels as living fish aggregating devices, through a ban on the setting of nets on whale sharks. The WCPFC also tightened monitoring and control rules by making it compulsory for fishing vessels to report data when transiting in exclusive economic zones.
But the WCPFC extended an exemption for 36 Philippine purse seine ships, giving them access to high seas fishing grounds that had previously been closed to fishing.
“Politics once again have failed our oceans. The onus now is on consumer markets to demand sustainable products on the shelves. By rejecting tuna caught by purse seiners using FADs and switching to more sustainable methods, consumer action can rescue our oceans,” said Mark Dia, regional oceans campaigner of Greenpeace Southeast Asia.
Greenpeace is calling for marine reserves to be established in four high seas pockets known as the Pacific Commons, and for these to be declared off-limits to fishing. It is also seeking a ban on the use of FADs in purse seine fisheries and a 50% reduction in the catch of bigeye tuna. Greenpeace is also campaigning for a global network of marine reserves covering 40% of the world’s oceans and for a more sustainable fishing industry.
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