Deciding the fate of our oceans

Feature Story - 20 March, 2012
Our oceans give us life. They provide the world with over half the oxygen we breathe, they drive weather systems and they provide us with food, jobs and so much more. In return, we are emptying our oceans of life and choking them with pollution. Can this be changed?

The main fish market in Busan. The fish on sale were mainly mackerel, juvenile blue fin tuna, sun fish and others.

Later this month, leaders will be gathered in Guam for the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC). This is the essential meeting where decisions are made on the future of the waters that provide much of the world with its tuna and provide the Pacific region with food and income. This year leaders have a chance to set it right.

Take action: Help us pressure the Tuna Commission to protect our oceans and the future of Pacific Islands

What are some of the issues?

  • Tuna species in decline:

Over 90% of our world’s largest predator fish such as tuna and marlin are gone. Pacific tuna stocks are no different - yellowfin, bigeye, albacore and skipjack tuna are already in decline. Yet the world’s appetite for tuna continues to grow.

The Western and Central Pacific Ocean is where over 60% of the world’s tuna is caught – much of it ending up on the shelves in Australian supermarkets. Foreign fleets in the Pacific are literally fishing stocks out of existence, and stripping away the future of the island nations that rely on them.

  • Destructive fishing methods

One of the most reckless fishing methods involves the use of Fish Aggregating Devices (FADs) with giant nets called purse seines. These FADs are floating objects, often equipped with a radio beacon, that attract tuna, making them easier to catch. Not only do FADs attract scores of tuna, but they also gather other ocean creatures – such as sharks, turtles and masses of baby tuna - which are also scooped up in huge nets. 

  • Vulnerable areas targeted:

In between the national waters of Pacific Island countries lie four areas called the Pacific Commons - key spawning grounds and part of the migratory routes of Pacific tuna. Because of their size and remoteness, these areas are vulnerable to pirate fishing.

Previous success

Each year, we have successfully pushed for positive decisions to be made at the WCPFC meeting. Most recent examples include:

-    Securing an annual 3-month ban on the use of FADs.
-    Securing a ban on the use of purse seines in two of the essential Pacific Commons areas.

What are we asking for at this year’s meeting?

-    For a full and permanent ban of FADs in purse seine fisheries.
-    To convert the Pacific Commons into marine reserves, to battle the pirates and protect the tuna.

What can you do?

Write a letter and change your tuna

-    Help us pressure the Tuna Commission to protect our oceans and the future of Pacific Islands. Send an e-letter >

-    As a consumer you can make a big difference. By choosing sustainably caught tuna – like pole and line - you can play a major role in protecting the oceans. Only a year ago, there were virtually no sustainable tuna products available. Thanks to your pressure, now every supermarket has at least one sustainable option (that’s also reasonably priced!). Check out our Canned Tuna Ranking >