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WCPFC lessens protections for Pacific tuna

Posted by on 8 April 2012

Messages projected on Taiwan’s Fisheries Agency. (Photo: Elliot Hsiao/ Greenpeace)

WCPFC lessens protections for Pacific tuna

Wednesday, April 04, 2012, 15:30 (GMT + 9)

The failure of international talks to agree on vital conservation measures for Pacific tuna mean stocks are now on course for collapse, says Greenpeace.

The Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) finished a week-long meeting in Guam agreeing on a temporary step that weakens existing protections in areas of international waters — the Pacific Commons — and will not help stop the decline of bigeye tuna, Greenpeace explains.

Underwater banner. (Photo: Greenpeace)

Taiwan voted against the initiative, which was mainly pushed through by South Korea and the US, but Taiwan’s unwillingness to develop with a rescue plan demonstrated its weakness on the issue, Greenpeace says, CNA reports.

“As the member owning the most fishing vessels in the area, Taiwan’s Fisheries Agency should take a leading role to actively guide the commission toward applying sustainable methods, instead of passively waiting for the decisions,” Greenpeace East Asia senior ocean campaigner Kao Yu-fen said.

Most of New Zealand’s canned tuna comes from the Pacific Ocean and all Pacific tuna stocks are in decline, especially bigeye and yellowfin. Scientists have advised that fishing needs to be cut by half to allow bigeye tuna to recover.

Skipjack tuna, the most common species used in canned products, is also under threat.

According to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), more and more bigeye tuna are being fished with no adequate action in place to reverse the decline. Precautionary conservation measures to protect yellowfin stocks, which are under increasing pressure, were also dismissed.

“This meeting unraveled protection for the region’s tuna populations. This is a disappointing step backward. The Pacific region relies on tuna for food, jobs and economic prosperity and the commission’s decisions go against the wants and needs of the region’s people, the world’s consumers, and forward-thinking businesses,” said Karli Thomas, Greenpeace New Zealand oceans campaigner.

WCPFC did not agree on extending closures of the Pacific Commons, increasing bans on a destructive fishing practice that combines Fish Aggregating Devices (FADs) and purse seine nets and a cut in longline fishing.

The highlighted areas 1, 2 and 3 and 4 are the high seas pockets. Pockets 1 and 2 are closed to purse seine fishing from 2010 as per WCPFC decision in December 2008. (Map: Greenpeace)

WWF strongly urges WCPFC Member States to move to support the implementation of the precautionary approach to fisheries management:

  • Adopt harvest control rules and reference points in line with international best practice for tuna stocks;
  • Strengthen regulations on bycatch species impacted by tuna fishing;
  • Reduce fishing capacity in line with long-term sustainable yields.

Despite this outcome, Thomas said there was an increasing global demand for responsibly sourced tuna. Last week, Greenpeace released its report ‘Changing Tuna,’ outlining progress taken by tuna companies around the globe to save Pacific tuna; it highlights NZ retailer Foodstuffs, which has changed most of its Pams range to sustainably caught tuna.

Last week, US retail giant Safeway joined other retailers by pledging not to source tuna from the Pacific Commons for its private brand canned tuna.

By Natalia Real


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