Pacific ocean fish stocks heading for collapse

Posted: 7 June 2007

The Pacific is among the world's moderately healthy oceans, but fish stocks there could begin to collapse within three years unless Pacific nations take control of their own fish resources, Greenpeace warns.

"As fishing stocks collapse in other oceans, global fleets are moving en masse to the Pacific, rather than fixing the problems in their own waters," Greenpeace Australia Pacific Oceans Team Leader Nilesh Goundar said.

Mr Goundar said the increasing number of foreign industrial and illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) or pirate fishing boats are preying on fish in these waters, greedily taking as many as they can.

This greedy migration of industrial fishing fleets threatens to overwhelm the Pacific's vital fisheries, he said. "The 20 Pacific Island states rely upon our oceans as a crucial economic resource with tuna fisheries making up to 40 per cent of GDP through exports for some states, as well as being a primary protein source in local diets," said Mr Goundar. "The economic stability and health of Pacific Island communities is under threat."

Overfishing, overcapacity and lack of effective regulation must be urgently resolved at a regional and global level or key fish stocks will collapse.

"Experts warn this collapse could start within three years and together, Pacific nations can take more control of their own ocean resources and stop this from happening," he said.

Action needed

Greenpeace in a science report launched last year recommended that:

  • Serious and stronger action needs to be taken against pirate vessels
  • Fairer returns must be paid by foreign nations for the fish they take from the Pacific
  • Foreign nations must immediately reduce by half the amount of fish they catch
  • An immediate end to all transhipments at sea
  • Immediately stop all building of largelongline and purse seine vessels
  • Ban super-super seiners from entering Pacific waters
  • Increase support for enforcement and surveillance missions in the Pacific
  • The immediate establishment of a marine reserve in an enclosed high-seas area bound by Palau, Federated States of Micronesia, Papua New Guinea and Indonesia, and a firm commitment to establishing a second fully protected marine reserve to the east in the near future.
  • Establish and enforce 40 per cent of Pacific marine habitats as marine reserves. Globally, 40 per cent of the world's oceans must be made into properly enforced Marine Reserves
  • The Western and Central Pacific Commission (WCPFC) must set quotas for tuna stock based on the health of the stock, taking into account the uncertainty that exists.