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GREENPEACE: Pacific 'Forum Nius' Issue 3

GREENPEACE: Pacific 'Forum Nius' Issue 3

Welcome to the third 'Forum Nius' email bulletin from Greenpeace

Auckland, Aotearoa, 14 August 2003.

In this issue: The 'Do Nothing' Option - making nuclear shipments possible Question of the Day Healthy Oceans Include Whales

The 'Do Nothing' Option - Making Nuclear Shipments Possible

Is your government supporting it? Will leaders fix it?

The language contained in the draft Forum Communiqué for 2003 on nuclear shipments is a big step backwards from both the agreement in February when countries in the region successfully stood up against nuclear shipments and from the Communiqué last year.

Why? Because agreeing to hold off the investigation of legal and diplomatic options while ‘dialogue’ progresses simply allows shipping countries to buy time. Their strategy is to have another year of meaningless discussions, then come back to the Forum in 12 months time, arguing progress has been made, and more time is needed. Meanwhile, more nuclear shipments will pass by, with no prior notification, no liability regime, and inadequate emergency response plans.

Nothing will change except that the Pacific population and environment will be subjected to continued threat from accident and terrorism for another year. And it makes it more likely that the shipping states will continue to send the shipments through the Pacific, rather than through other routes.

Worse still, the current language could stop those countries who do want to take real action, because shipping countries will argue that such actions should not take place while the dialogue goes on. As they have done for three years now.

What is needed? The Communiqué should contain language that enables the Working Group to investigate alternative legal, political and diplomatic measures in parallel with the dialogue.

With the Forum Officials meeting finished, the responsibility now rests on leaders to make this important change. If the region falters now, or shows a willingness to back down, it is only a matter of time before more nuclear shipments are headed our way.

By Shane Rattenbury Greenpeace Political Liaison Officer

Question Of The Day

Who will it be? As the battle for SG heats up, the question must be asked whether Pacific Island countries are really going to accept an Australian as SG, given his government’s refusal to ratify Kyoto, and their support for nuclear shipments through the region. Given that New Zealanders already occupy three of the four key positions in the Secretariat, increased representation for smaller countries is called for. And given that Australia and NZ fund two-thirds of the Forum Secretariat’s operation, what more influence do they need?

Healthy Oceans Include Whales

Some distant water fishing states have heavily lobbied Pacific Island States to support the culling of top predators like whales and ignore the complex relationships between species in the ecosystem. This manipulative approach effectively demands that humans play ‘God’ with the marine ecosystem and scientists have questioned its effectiveness.

As we know, Pacific tuna fisheries are worth US$2 billion, although only a fraction of this is returned to the region. Fisheries are the only resource for some island states. They need to be maintained and protected so future generations can benefit from them, as many generations have done in the past.

Independent scientists are seriously concerned that culling top order predators would further reduce the productivity of important fisheries (1). Baleen whales do not eat tuna, feeding instead on zooplankton, krill and squid. Toothed whales that do eat squid and fish sometimes also feed on predatory species that actually feed on commercial fish stocks, in effect protecting the commercial stock. If Pacific States were to cull whales, this could cause an increase in the numbers of predatory species, which would in turn eat more of the species caught by commercial fishermen.

The sea has been untouched for millions of years and has established its own balance, supporting large populations of both whales and fish. Once the delicate balance of the ecosystem is destroyed, who knows what will happen?

Culling top order predators like whales will not protect valuable fish stocks and in fact will make the problem worse. Fisheries are in trouble all over the world because of overfishing. Let’s not blame the whales for our own mistakes. Overfishing needs to be tackled by ensuring that global fisheries are managed in a sustainable manner. To do this, the integrity of marine ecosystems must be maintained.

There is no credible science that supports the culling of top order predators like whales. Whatever arguments have been used to support the case for culling predators have serious logical inconsistencies and have not been properly peer reviewed.

The Pacific is at a cross roads. One path leads towards sustainable and equitable fisheries, a healthy marine environment and stable and prosperous island communities. The other path leads to fishery collapses, degraded marine environments and poverty.

References: (1) Yodzis, P Must top order predators be culled for the sake of fisheries? Trends in Ecology and Evolution, Vol 16 No 2, pp 78-83, 2001.

Greenpeace urges Pacific leaders to consider alternative legal options to protect the Pacific Islands and the Pacific Ocean from the risks involved in the shipment of radioactive materials.

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