Following the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commissions (WCPFC) technical and compliance meeting in Micronesia this week Greenpeace is raising the alarm that fishing powers and other members are failing to sustainably manage over half of the word’s tunas and ensure fishing operations comply with rules and fish legally. The meeting kept most discussions on compliance behind closed doors and made no progress in ensuring a strong recovery plan for all tropical tunas is agreed to in December.
Greenpeace also criticised the Commission for locking NGOs out of key parts of the meeting, reducing transparency over the behavior of regional fishing fleets and the failure of flag states to report data.
Duncan Williams, Greenpeace Australia Pacific Oceans Campaigner said, “It was revealed at the meeting that the majority of fishing fleet operations in the world’s largest tuna fishery are shrouded in secrecy. Many vessels fail to provide basic mandatory information about their operations”.
“When fleets are not reporting their whereabouts and what and how much they are catching, the region becomes vulnerable to Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing and overfishing. This, together with ever declining stocks, is a concern and has implications for consumers and markets which do not want to engage in sourcing tuna from questionable sources,” Mr Willliams said.
An example of this secrecy is a surveillance mission in March this year, which identified 19 Taiwanese longline vessels were fishing in the high seas very close to the EEZs of Marshall Islands without authorities knowing they were there.
The meeting discussed the need for a comprehensive recovery plan for the region’s threatened bigeye and yellowfin tuna by December. Other key priorities identified are urgently stopping new vessels entering the region and devising a reduction plan for purse seine and longline vessels.
“Fishing permission should be withdrawn from pirate fleets or vessels with a history of illegal activities, along with vessels that are reliant on the use of destructive fishing methods such as FADs,” added Jeonghee Han, Greenpeace East Asia Oceans Campaigner.
“These meetings should be transparent and openly discuss compliance of fleets with the region’s conservation measures. Where necessary, action should be taken to impose sanctions and place offending vessels on the regional blacklist,” said Mr Williams.
“Even where a vessel owner has paid compensation for their illegal fishing the details of the case, including money paid, must be placed on the public record for all to see. Responsible market players are keen to avoid getting dragged into dealing with companies that lack standards which ensure sustainable and legal fishing.”
In addition to cutting vessel numbers and eliminating the least sustainable fishing methods, Greenpeace is calling on the Commission to fix loopholes that facilitate IUU and unsustainable fishing. This can be achieved by closing high seas pockets to fishing, banning at sea transshipments for longline vessels and to ensuring independent observers on all vessels.