Greenpeace Paints Stern of US Tuna Fisher
Pacific Ocean, Sunday, 20 April 2008: Today Greenpeace took action against the US purse seiner, Cape Finisterre, in a pocket of international waters between Pacific Island countries. Activists painted the side of the vessel with the words "Tuna overkill" and held a banner reading 'Marine reserves NOW'. The fishing vessel was asked to leave the area immediately.
The Greenpeace ship Esperanza is in the Pacific to defend the Pacific Commons - 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).
The action took place in the international waters of the Pacific Ocean (to the North of the Solomon Islands) where legal fishers and pirates are both plundering Pacific tuna. According to scientists, overfishing is occurring with two key tuna species, bigeye and yellowfin.
"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 Oceans Campaigner Lagi Toribau on board the Esperanza. "Both time and tuna are running out."
"The US has negotiated an agreement to fish for tuna within the waters of Pacific Island countries that have more positive benefits for local people than those of Japan, Korea, China and Taiwan. However, American vessels must only fish within the waters of those Pacific Island countries", said Toribau. "Every country who fishes in this region has the scientific data that shows that bigeye and yellowfin tuna are in trouble There needs to be an immediate closure of the Pacific Commons to all fishing along with a 50% cut to tuna fishing within Pacific Island country waters. Only then will the livelihoods of Pacific nations, these tuna stocks and all other marine life be protected and allowed to recover from overexploitation."
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. A purse seine net can be over one hundred metres long and catch up to 3000 tonnes of fish in one trip.
"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. As tuna catches in other oceans have declined because of overfishing, these fleets have now 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.
The Pacific provides approximately 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, or stolen from the waters of developing countries such as those in the Pacific under unfair access agreements", said Sari Tolvanen of Greenpeace International.
A few days earlier, Greenpeace targeted a Korean purse seiner and removed a FAD (fish aggregation device (2)) which intensifies overfishing in the same area of international waters.
According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation almost 80 per cent of the world's commercial fish stocks are now fully 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.
(2) 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.