Environmentalists React to Pacific Tuna Quota

By

SeafoodSource staff

Published on
December 1, 2008

Linda Salim for SeafoodSource from Surabaya, Indonesia -- For the past decade, environmental organizations have urged tuna-producing countries to manage tuna fishing responsibly. Last week, World Wildlife Fund cautioned that unless the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission adopts sustainable tuna fishing practices, populations of bigeye and yellowfin tuna in the region might crash, too, following their relatives in the Atlantic and Mediterranean.

Both WWF and Greenpeace have assertively campaigned for tuna quota reductions. Last week, environmentalists were defeated when the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna (ICCAT) set the 2009 tuna bluefin tuna quota at 22,000 tons, 50 percent above its own scientists' recommendation of 15,000 tons.

Greenpeace announced last week it plans on protesting at the commission's next meeting in Busan, Korea.

According to Peter Trott, fisheries program manager for WWF Australia, saving tuna from extinction is not a feel-good campaign. The tuna industry, with total catch of $4 billion and market value of $6 to $8 billion, is the backbone of the Pacific region's economy, Trott says.

The Coral Triangle is a 1.3-million-acre area in the Indian and Pacific Oceans covering the waters of Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Solomon Islands and Timor Leste.

In Busan, WWF and Greenpeace will try to persuade the commission to consider reducing the bigeye and yellowfin tuna quotas by 30 percent. The reduction would involve closing parts of tuna fishing grounds to purse seiners, and banning aggregate devices during spawning season from July to September. Dr. Jose Ingles from the WWF Coral Triangle campaign says if the commission can't be convinced to drop the tuna quota, the species face commercial extinction.

Jason Collins, ocean campaigner for Greenpeace Australia Pacific, who will attend Busan protest, says the commission failed to take conservation measures at last year's meeting because Japan, China, Chinese Taipei and South Korea objected.

Depending on how Busan turns out, Collins says that Greenpeace would continue to pressure countries that persist on opposing quota reductions. Sustainable tuna fishing means a permanent reduction in the tuna quota, says Collins.

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