Greenpeace urges PH to push for marine reserves & an end to tuna overfishin

Manila, 11 November 2011. – Greenpeace today called on the Philippine government to join neighbouring Pacific Island coastal states in efforts to create healthy oceans for future generations, which would also ensure economic prosperity and boost food security in the region.

Greenpeace issued the challenge at a press briefing organized barely a month before the critical Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCFPC) meeting taking place in Palau on December 5 to 9, wherein the fates of the threatened Pacific bigeye and yellowfin tuna stocks will be decided. The Philippines is expected to propose the opening of the Pacific Commons to purse seine fishing by its fleets. These areas are important areas of international waters whose protection, together with other conservation measures designed to halt the overfishing of bigeye and yellowfin tuna, is up for a review at this year’s WCPFC meeting

“The proposal to open the high seas pockets is a short-sighted proposal that will only serve to compromise the reputation of Philippine tuna globally and unravel years of existing efforts to conserve tuna stocks in the region for the long-term benefit of Philippine fishing fleets, jobs and food security for years to come” said Oceans Campaigner Sari Tolvanen of Greenpeace International during today’s press briefing at Old Swiss Inn in Makati City.

The Philippines has the third largest tuna catch in the region after Japan and Korea. Bigeye and yellowfin tuna species are in decline in the region and have recently been listed as vulnerable and near threatened by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) . Scientists are calling for further cuts in fishing in order to ensure that they can be restored to healthy population levels.

The Pacific Commons, large areas of international waters that lie between the Pacific Island countries, have been closed to purse seine fishing for two years by the WCPFC. This closure has helped curb pirate fishing and, together with restriction on the use of fish aggregation devices (FADs, such as payaws), eased some of the overfishing of tuna in the region. Scientists have been calling for increased oceans protection through additional high seas closures as proposed by Pacific Island Countries and by banning the use of FADs in purse seine fisheries that catch large amount of juvenile tuna and vulnerable species such as sharks.

Greenpeace points out that the Philippines will also benefit from supporting the extension of the ban on purse seine fishing using FADs, which worsen overfishing and cause wasteful bycatch of other threatened species. By transforming its fishing industry to pole and line, hand line and free school purse seine fishing, the Philippines would be able to meet the increasing market demand for sustainably caught tuna products and set the example for the rest of the world in ensuring the long-term sustainability and profitability of our fisheries.

“If the Philippines’ voice joins those of other small Pacific Island states, we cast a larger net toward responsible oceans management, rather than unraveling existing measures for the benefit of fishing industries of Korea, Japan and Taiwan, at the expense of the livelihood and future of the people of the Philippines,” Tolvanen added.

Greenpeace is campaigning globally for fishing industry reform and for a global network of marine reserves covering 40% of the world’s oceans, necessary steps to creating healthy, living oceans for future generations.