The Pacific Commons – Greenpeace urges international support for first high seas no-take area in the Pacific

Oct 13, 2010 by

The Pacific Commons – Greenpeace urges international support for first high seas no-take area in the Pacific

From Greenpeace

Greenpeace is calling on Governments which are part of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) to support the Cook Islands plan to close off a large area of international waters to all fishing in order to restore Pacific tuna fisheries, protect biodiversity and eliminate pirate fishing.

big eye tuna caught on longlineThe Cook Islands proposal to ban all fishing from a pocket of high seas bordering the waters of Cook Islands, French Polynesia and Kiribati, follows repeated incidents of illegal fishing over the past years. If approved at the annual WCPFC meeting, in December, it would be the first area of international waters in the Pacific to be closed to all fishing, an important step towards creating a much needed network of fully protected marine reserves in the region and to restoring tuna populations and marine biodiversity.

Come December fishing powers such as Japan, Korea, Taiwan and China will need to show their support for the closures and demonstrate that they are responsible fishing partners and serious about their international commitments to restore marine biodiversity by creating marine reserves, said Duncan Williams, Greenpeace Australia Pacific oceans campaigner, present at the meeting.

The orange areas on the map are the proposed marine reserves. The grey areas are the exclusive economic zones (EEZs) of the nations, and the green represent the islands themselves.

If approved, the proposal will further strengthen the conservation benefits efforts of the the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA), a group of eight Pacific Island Countries, whose waters hold the majority of the region’s tuna stocks. The PNA has set new rules to prevent vessels licensed to fish in their waters from purse seine fishing in the four high seas pockets as well as in a large open high sea area from early 2011.

The Commission also urgently needs to address the use of  Fish Aggregating Devices (FADs) in purse seine fisheries. This wasteful fishing technology results in bycatch of endangered sharks, turtles and juvenile tuna, in particular bigeye, a tuna species which is now severely overfished. Countries are currently committed to a three month ban, but scientific data has demonstrated this is not long enough.

“It’s all very well to ban Fish Aggregation Devices for three months, but what’s the excuse for the decimation of marine life that occurs when they are put to use for the other nine months of the year? Countries must urgently agree to ban this practice year-round” said Sari Tolvanen of Greenpeace International.

Greenpeace is calling for 40 percent of the world’s oceans to be declared marine reserves.  Because Pacific islands do not have enough money to protect their waters, pirate fishing is rife in the region. If we take urgent action now Pacific tuna can still be saved. The Pacific Commons would be the first Marine Reserves ever in international waters and would represent a small but significant step towards achieving this goal. Pacific Island countries including Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, and Cook Islands have already expressed their support for the protection of the Pacific Commons.