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Governments fail to clamp down on overfishing of tuna

Tuna plunder to continue as governments fail to clamp down on overfishing

Auckland, 8 December 2012 - Governments charged with protecting fish stocks in the Pacific are allowing the continued plunder of the region's declining bigeye tuna stocks while also putting yellowfin, skipjack and albacore tuna at risk of overfishing, says Greenpeace.

The Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC), the international body that sets the rules for tuna fishing in the region, finished a five-day meeting in Manila late Thursday night (NZ time). The annual meeting involved more than 30 countries from the Oceania region, Asia, Americas and Europe.

Pacific scientists this year advised that a total ban on fish aggregating devices (FADs) combined with greater regulation of longline fishing in spawning areas would be the most effective way to save overfished Pacific bigeye tuna. Greenpeace also called for marine reserves to be established in four high seas pockets known as the Pacific Commons. These conservation measures, among others, were rejected by the WCPFC.

Lagi Toribau, head of the Greenpeace delegation to the WCPFC says the meeting was a disaster.

“The big corporate players won and will continue their plunder for short-term profits at the expense of our oceans’ health,” he says.

“The governments here should be held accountable for failing to protect vulnerable species that form the backbone of many economies in the Pacific, and provide food and livelihoods to coastal communities across the region.

“Politics once again have failed our oceans. The onus now is on consumer markets to demand sustainable products on the shelves. By rejecting tuna caught by purse seiners using FADs and switching to more sustainable methods, consumer action can rescue our oceans.”

Earlier this week John West, Australia’s largest tuna brand, pledged to phase out FAD-caught tuna. Two other brands sold in New Zealand have made the same commitment with Foodstuffs changing about 85 per cent of its Pams range to more sustainably caught tuna. Greenpeace is urging New Zealand’s largest tuna brand, Sealord to do the same or better.

Shark conservation was also on the WCPFC agenda. The meeting agreed to end the practice of setting nets on whale sharks and using them as living FADs but rejected a Pacific Islands proposal to ban shark finning at sea.

The Greenpeace ship Esperanza arrived in Manila, ahead of the WCPFC meeting, after a one-month expedition in the Pacific region which revealed illegal and unsustainable fishing activity.

Greenpeace’s campaign to halt the decline in Pacific tuna stocks was the subject of a one-hour documentary which premiered on New Zealand television earlier this week. Titled ‘Karli Thomas and the Raiders of the Last Tuna’ it can be viewed at http://tvnz.co.nz/karli-thomas-and-raiders-of-last-tuna/sspecial-ep1-video-5259289

ENDS

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