Greenpeace calls for urgent action to protect the economic and environmental sustainability of key Pacific tuna stocks as major tuna interests meet in Apia for the 11th Regular Session of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC).
“Pacific tuna are in serious trouble. Bigeye tuna is overfished, down to 16% of its original population, and yet, as the China Tuna Industries failed IPO demonstrates, fishing companies continue to hammer them like there’s no tomorrow,” says Lagi Toribau of Greenpeace, “it is time for the WCPFC to tackle unchecked overfishing, and ensure member countries follow the rules or face stiff penalties.”
“To address the ongoing decline of bigeye tuna, the Commission has to tackle FAD use,” continues Toribau, “the data makes it absolutely clear that FADs have a devastating impact on juvenile bigeye, and unless the WCPFC declares a total ban on FADs, this meeting is just talk.”
FADs are currently banned for a four-month period each year, a rule that Greenpeace says, demonstrates an awareness of the damage FADs cause, but the four-month ban is inadequate. Backed by strong scientific evidence and worrying stock decline, Greenpeace says any use of FADs by purse seine fleets is unacceptable.
While purse seiners are taking huge catches, longline vessels are also overdue critical attention. They continue to take the most valuable fish and give the least back to Pacific Island nations. Longline vessels fish the Western and Central Pacific Ocean in vast numbers, many of them sticking to the high seas and transshipping via reefer. “The longliners are all take and no return,” says Toribau, “they’re not even reporting operational level data from their fleets, so no one has a full picture of what’s really going on out there.”
Greenpeace is calling for longline fleets to be reduced and more tightly regulated. The high seas should be closed to all fishing, and the Commission must ban transshipment at sea; a practice that enables fleets to hide illegal fishing, labour abuse, shark finning and other illicit practices. This is the side of tuna fishing that the industry wants to keep out of sight. China, Taiwan, Korea and Japan do not even provide the operational level data they are obliged to share with the Commission.
“These days consumers want to know where their food is from, and be sure it comes from sustainable and ethical sources. Complex supply chains hiding dodgy or illegal behaviour are no longer acceptable” says Toribau. “Transparency and ethical behaviour is in everyone’s best interest.”
Albacore, the bread and butter of Pacific Island fisheries, needs to be managed far more sustainably than it is at present. Countries must adopt a new Conservation and Management Measure for albacore and an interim target reference point of 70% to recover the stock to a level where local Pacific fleets are viable.
“The Pacific is at a crossroads and this meeting in Apia will decide the fate of the region’s most important natural resource,” says Toribau. “The current path will only lead to devastation, with loss of livelihood, economic instability for Pacific countries, and the collapse of the world’s favourite fish.”
Greenpeace calls on the WCPFC to ban FADs, close the High Seas, and ban transshipping at sea.