Pacific Island fisheries under threat from over-fishing
31 May 2007
"The state of Pacific tuna fisheries is the key issue on the table," Fisheries Minister Jim Anderton said today at the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Committee annual meeting being held in Wellington.
“Healthy tuna fisheries are the economic engine for most Pacific Island countries and, for some, these fisheries are their greatest source of income.
“But Pacific tuna fisheries have reached a critical point," Jim Anderton said. "The scale and intensity of fishing is ever increasing. And already two of the key target species – bigeye and yellowfin tuna – are subject to unsustainable levels of fishing.
“If we don’t address things now, the whole Pacific region will face huge economic issues in the long-term.”
The highly migratory tuna fisheries in the Pacific region are worth about $US2 billion per year. They are probably the only remaining healthy tuna stocks left on the planet, as most high-value tuna and tuna-like fish stocks in other oceans of the world are now seriously depleted or fast heading that way.
“The FFA has to address the economic integrity of this huge and shared resource,” Jim Anderton said. “To do this, we must now work together as a unified Pacific region. We must act with foresight, and we must act soon.
“Without foresight and quick action, our Western and Central Pacific tunas may go the way of Indian and Atlantic Ocean tuna fisheries - and that would be a tragedy for every Pacific Island country, in terms of future development opportunities, future jobs and economic self-sufficiency.”
Read the Minister's speech in full
In the southeast Atlantic, the southeast Pacific, the Northeast Atlantic and the high seas tuna fishing grounds in the Atlantic and Indian Oceans, half to two thirds of tuna stocks are overexploited, depleted, or recovering.
Vessels that were fishing these other waters are now moving into the Pacific to take advantage of the opportunities that still exist in this region. Much of their catch is now taken from the waters of Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) member countries.
FFA Ministers and officials have been meeting at Te Papa in Wellington since Monday (28 May) to discuss these and other issues.
The Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency was established in 1979 by Pacific Island leaders. Its purpose was to provide its members with policy advice and technical services for the management of tuna fisheries. New Zealand is host for the 2007 meetings.
FFA Ministers from around the Pacific are meeting all day today. This meeting is being chaired by New Zealand Fisheries Minister Jim Anderton.
Over the past 26 years, the FFA has played a pivotal role in protecting and advancing the rights and interests of Pacific Island countries with respect to their tuna fisheries.
During this time, distant fishing nations and Pacific Island countries have both worked to maximise their share of these resources. This has resulted in a range of collaborations, including charter arrangements, access rights and foreign investment in domestic development.
To support these, the FFA has developed agreed minimum terms and conditions for foreign vessels wanting to access Pacific Islands’ Exclusive Economic Zones. It has also developed a regional register of foreign fishing vessels, vessel monitoring systems and a regional observer programme.