Greenpeace Takes Action to End Overfishing of Pacific Tuna
Pacific Ocean, Thursday 17 April 2008: Today Greenpeace demonstrated against tuna fishing operations in the international waters of the Pacific by deploying a banner reading 'Marine Reserves Now' near the bow of a Korean purse seiner Olympus. Greenpeace communicated to the vessels that it must leave the area that Greenpeace is defending as a no-take marine reserve immediately. Later the activists also confiscated a fish aggregation device (FAD) used by purse seiners that attracts tuna and intensifies overfishing.
The Greenpeace ship Esperanza is in the Pacific to defend the pockets of international waters between Pacific Island Countries as marine reserves from rapacious fishing fleets intent on fishing out the world's last tuna stocks - the world's favourite fish (1). According to scientists, overfishing is occurring with two key tuna species in the Pacific, bigeye and yellowfin. Pacific Island countries have also made numerous calls for these areas to become marine reserves.
The targeted vessel, the Olympus is owned by Korea's largest tuna company, Dongwon Industries Co. Ltd, a significant global player in the tuna industry. In 2006, Greenpeace together with Kiribati fisheries inspectors boarded another Dongwon owned vessel, Dongwon 117, which fled Kiribati waters after Greenpeace discovered discrepancies in its documentation and reporting.
"Greenpeace took action against this tuna fishing operation because the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission, which is supposed to be managing the fishery and protecting the tuna, are failing to do their job", said Greenpeace Australia Pacific campaigner Lagi Toribau on board the Esperanza. "Both time and tuna are running out. These areas of international waters need to be protected urgently as no-take marine reserves so that the tuna stocks and all other marine life can seek sanctuary within them and recover from overexploitation."
"Advances in technology mean large ships are now able to catch as much fish in two days as the fishers of the small Pacific Island countries can catch in a year," said Mr Toribau.
"As tuna catches in other oceans have declined because of overfishing, these ships have moved into the Pacific. There are now nearly 600 purse seiners and over 3600 tuna longliners plundering the Western and Central Pacific alone. This is clearly not sustainable", said Toribau.
Purse seine vessels surround schools of fish with curtain-like nets to catch tuna. A rope along the bottom of the net is pulled like a drawstring and the whole catch is hauled onboard.
The fishing industry has mimicked natural phenomena by creating fake floats fixed with satellite or radio transmitters - fish aggregation devices (FAD) - that tell them when they have found the tuna so they can catch them all - and any other marine life that swims along with them.
The Pacific supplies about 60 per cent of the world's tuna and each year foreign fishing fleets rake in over US$3 billion from the sale of Pacific's tuna to markets in Japan, Europe and the USA. Pacific nations are being ripped off only receiving 5-6 per cent of the value of the catch caught by foreign vessels in their national waters. This is because of the unfair and unsustainable agreements negotiated by foreign companies and countries for access to fish for tuna in their waters.
"Greenpeace is asking fish retailers worldwide to stop selling unsustainable tuna products such as bluefin, bigeye and yellowfin, which are now threatened in all oceans. Retailers must also ensure that any remaining tuna products that they do sell are not sourced from pirates, caught by destructive methods or stolen from the waters of developing countries such as those in the Pacific under unfair access agreements", said Sari Tolvanen of Greenpeace International.
According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation almost 80 per cent of the world's commercial fish stocks are now fully exploited or overexploited. Greenpeace advocates the creation of a network of marine reserves, protecting 40 per cent of the world's oceans, as the long term solution to overfishing and the recovery of our overexploited oceans.
Notes to Media:
(2) The main countries importing Pacific tuna into Europe are the UK (125,880 tons in 2006), Germany (60,284 in 2006), the Netherlands (30,566 tons in 2006) and France (75,661 tons in 2006).