25 Nov 2013

Greenpeace is putting the pressure on distant water nations to curb tuna catches

5:48 pm on 25 November 2013

A week before a crucial meeting to set regulations on tuna catches in the Pacific, the global organisation Greenpeace is urging member countries to take action on conserving tuna stocks.

The Tuna Commission will hold a meeting in Cairns from Monday next week, with Pacific nations as well as distant water nations coming to the table.

Duncan Williams told Alex Perrottet the commission's policy of consensus might make the stalemate impossible to overcome.

DUNCAN WILLIAMS: What we've seen last year, it's been a year of records in terms of the number of boats that are now registered to fish in the Pacific. For example, last year alone there were over two million tonnes of tuna fished out of the Pacific and there were 3,600 long-line vessels registered to fish in the Pacific - over half of the global long-line fleet. This is hugely concerning for us. In addition to that, there are also 297 purse seine vessels and these are large-scale industrial vessels. This is a record for the Pacific. I don't think we've ever seen such a high number of purse seine vessels operate in the Pacific before. And there are 45 large-scale purse seine boats under construction in Asian shipyards that are now destined for the Pacific. So it goes to show that distant water fishing nations from Asia - Japan, Korea and Taiwan - are not concerned about sustainability.

ALEX PERROTTET: What is lacking in these regional bodies, in terms of having the ability to put some strict laws and observation procedures in place so that these distant water nations, in particular, can be policed in these actions fo theirs?

DW: That's true. This is the point, really. It does signify that there is huge shortcomings with the regional fisheries management organisations across the globe. It comes down, again, to political will and the decisionmaking style of the commission, where everything is basically consensus. And in the past, Pacific island countries have been really leading the way and pushing the envelope when it comes to sustainability. So when it comes to other members in the commission, particularly the distant water fishing nations of Taiwan, China and Korea and Japan, when it comes to taking on board effective measures, these countries have simply vetoed sensible measures and thrown in all sorts of technicalities to render these measures either ineffective or very hard to implement at a technical level.

AP: But surely this is where there needs to be a different standard, because of course the Honolulu fishery is upset because they'll have to close in July with the new proposed regulations on the catch that they can take. But their argument is that they're supplying a local market in Hawaii and in fact they have to still import a lot of their fish to feed the market there. Surely there needs to be a different standard on how much you can fish, depending on whether you're feeding a local market or whether you're fishing for people on the other side of the world.

DW: This is it. I think at the end of the day sustainability of the fishery must be at the forefront. There won't be a market, there won't be demand, or there wont' even be an economy for tuna fisheries if there's' no tuna in the first place. So I think first and foremost there needs to be a real, committed, genuine, political will by all members to push past this stalemate and arrive at a compromised position come December in Cairns.