Greenpeace Southeast Asia

Fish Now, Pay Later by Chuck Baclagon
September 14, 2009, 4:43 am
Filed under: Defending our Oceans, Life at work, The Esperanza, Volunteers | Tags: , , ,

From the Greenpeace Australia Pacific blog

Just two days ago, the Japanese purse seiner, Fukuichi Maru was pulling in its purse seine net, heavy with freshly caught tuna, when we found them fishing in area 2 of the Pacific high seas. Floating and attached on their left side (or port side as we refer to it in nautical terms), was a FAD made of a very long log with a radio beacon on it. It was the first time that we caught a fishing vessel in the act of purse seining from a FAD.

Seeing this made me shake my head in disbelief. There was a two-month ban on FADs declared by the WCPFC, currently in place. But a major loophole in the ban is being exploited by Japan to continue their high seas plunder of the Pacific.(1)

The Fukuichi Maru finished its hauling operations and headed away. Two of our inflatables caught up with the plundering purse seiner. Upon reaching the ship, we delivered a letter and information about our campaign on tuna, in Japanese. Two of our Pacific Activists, Anna Jitoko and Josefa Nasegui, showed their indignation by unfurling banners: ´No return from overfishing´ and ´Marine Reserves Now´.

Pacific Activists Josefa Nasegui and Anna Jitoko unfurling a protest banner agains the Japanese purse seiner, Fukuichi Maru

Witnessing this Japanese purse seiner use a FAD to catch tuna, makes me feel sad, given how many of our global stocks of tuna are already in a state of collapse. The northern bluefin tuna bluefin is severely overfished and has possibly already collapsed and some Pacific tuna are in danger of heading the same way. The FAD ban was put in place to protect the tuna from being fished out during their August-September spawning season. But in the last two weeks, we have seen no less than ten FADs scattered in the Pacific high seas.

It seems that despite the laws that are in place, Japan is still using loopholes to get around this restriction and use these loopholes as a means to their ends. There are no boundaries too great, no territories too taboo, and no laws too strict, to prevent them from their high seas plunder in the Pacific.

The sea may appear to be as vast as we see them, but they have lost much of the rich marine life that helps sustain life on earth. Like every resource that we use, tuna is also finite. If we do not manage this resource properly, and respect the laws in place to prevent its abuse and safeguard its very survival, our seas will just be a great big tub of salt water, empty of life.

Tuna is a resource that is NOT for one country´s plunder. Why should one country continue to fish using fish aggregating devices – plundering not just tuna but juvenile fish and sharks, turtles and other marine life – while every other country is bound by a ban on this wasteful form of fishing? What hope can we expect for the tuna to survive? And what chance can the Pacific nations have for their own survival when these distant fishing nations outfish them of their own resource?

It reminds me of low-budget travelers who snap up budget travel packages advertised on the newspapers back home: FLY NOW! Pay Later! Satisfy instant gratification and worry about the cost later. Here we have it: FISH NOW! pay later! But for low-budget travelers that get carried away, it’s their own credit cards that suffer – when we are talking about fishing a shared regional resource, any one country’s excess has impacts for all.

Japan is the world´s largest consumer of tuna and if Japan and other countries continue relentlessly fish tuna to the point of collapse and continually make a mockery of such laws, not only will sushi trains grind to a halt, but it will be the end of the line for Pacific nations: the loss of a vital resource and the end of a way of life.

1. Paragraph 15 of the WCPFC’s Conservation Management Measure which sets the conditions of the ban provides such exemptions as follows: “As an alternative to the high seas FAD closure…members may adopt measures to reduce their catch by weight of bigeye tuna in the purse seine fishery in the area between 20°N and 20°S by a minimum of 10 percent relative to 2001-2004 average levels…. This alternative shall only be available to members identified by the Commission in advance as having demonstrated a functioning capacity to implement such measures in an effective and transparent manner including through: an established and functioning port monitoring program that allows monitoring of bigeye landings for each trip by each vessel; a commitment to carry on board observers from the Regional Observer Program….”

Mary Ann Mayo

1 Comment so far
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Very informative post. I’m glad I happened upon this site.

Comment by Gail Panzarino

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