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Greenpeace call for marine reserves to protect Pacific tuna

Greenpeace activists call for marine reserves to protect Pacific tuna

International waters, Pacific Ocean, 10 Sept 2011 – Activists from the Greenpeace ship Esperanza today called for Pacific Ocean marine reserves to help protect tuna stocks by protesting alongside and aboard a Taiwanese tuna boat fishing in international waters between French Polynesia and the Cook Islands.

A crew of five activists aboard a Greenpeace inflatable held up banners in Taiwanese and English which read “Marine Reserves Now” in front of the longliner Yu Long No.10. They were protesting the ship's destructive fishing method and urged the vessel to stop fishing in the areas also known as the Pacific Commons which are vulnerable to pirate fishing and in urgent need of protection. The activists were invited on board by the ship's captain who also held the "Marine Reserves Now” banner for photos.

"Greenpeace is demanding an end to the overfishing that's driving Pacific tuna stocks into decline. Governments and companies must agree to make tuna fisheries sustainable or risk losing this valuable fish forever, putting the food security and economic prosperity of the Pacific region in peril," said Greenpeace expedition leader Karli Thomas aboard the Esperanza.

Longline tuna vessels are notorious for their bycatch of endangered species as well as pirate fishing and the laundering of unreported tuna catch from the Pacific Commons. These international waters of the Pacific are largely protected from purse seine fishing by surrounding island nations. Greenpeace is calling for them to be designated as fully protected marine reserves.

With tuna stocks in other oceans now depleted, fishing fleets from Asia, USA, and Europe have turned their attention to the Pacific, the source of more than half of all tuna consumed globally.

Longline vessels mainly target bigeye, yellowfin and albacore tuna, destined for luxury sashimi markets in major cities across the world. Bigeye and yellowfin tuna were recently assessed under the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) criteria for threatened species and are classified as vulnerable and near threatened.

In addition, approximately 35% of longline catch consists of non-target species, including threatened sharks and turtles. Many of the illegal fishing activities exposed in the Pacific are attributed to longline vessels, which also regularly engage in the controversial practice of shark-finning. It is estimated that between 21-46% of the fish caught in the Pacific is taken by pirate fishing ships.

The "Defending Our Pacific" expedition is part of a Greenpeace campaign to prevent the plunder of Pacific tuna and for the restoration of the health of the world's oceans through the creation of marine reserves.

The international environmental group is calling for marine reserves, off limits to fishing, to be established in four high seas pockets known as the Pacific Commons. Greenpeace is also seeking the reduction of tuna fishing efforts in the Pacific by 50%. These measures are important to return valuable fish stocks to a sustainable level.

Greenpeace is campaigning for a global network of marine reserves covering 40% of the world’s oceans and for a more sustainable fishing industry, both necessary steps to restoring our oceans to health. Around the world, Greenpeace is working with retailers and tuna brands across Europe, Australasia and the Americas to encourage a shift to sustainably-sourced tuna.

Photos available now, video shortly from Greenpeace Australia Pacific. — usr: photos, pw: green


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