Greenpeace: Philippines, Southeast Asian ships violate fishing rules

GREENPEACE announced it will formally submit a dossier detailing recent violations of fishing rules by the Philippines and other Southeast Asian countries to the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) which meets tomorrow in the Philippine capital.

Similar dossier submissions in the past have resulted in large penalties for the ships’ owner companies as well as the ships’ inclusion in a global pirate fishing blacklist (1).

Among the violations recorded were illegal transhipment, vessels operating in the high seas without  permits, failure to report via the mandatory Vessel Monitoring System, operating in the high seas without mandatory observers onboard, and illegal deployment of fish aggregating devices (FADs).

The WCPFC, also known as the Pacific Tuna Commission, is meeting in Manila this week to chart management and conservation measures in the face of fast-declining tuna stocks. Waters around Pacific island countries supply 60% of the world’s tuna demand, but tuna species such as yellow fin and albacore are on the brink of collapse due to massive overfishing by ships from Asia, the Americas and Europe.

“While at sea, we saw firsthand that pirate fishing and destructive fishing methods abound in the Pacific. The evidence we gathered clearly demonstrate failure by governments and industries to comply with the most basic rules they themselves have instituted through the Tuna Commission,” said Chow Yuen Ping, Greenpeace campaigner onboard the ship Esperanza which docked today in Manila.

Last month, Greenpeace conducted an expedition in the waters of Palau and the Pacific High Seas Pocket 1, the area of international waters between the Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs) of Palau, Federated States of Micronesia and Papua New Guinea (2). This is the sixth expedition conducted by Greenpeace in the Western and Central Pacific region to defend dwindling tuna stocks and expose the conservation, management and compliance challenges in this region.

“For several years now, Greenpeace has  shown the vulnerability of international waters to illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing. Members of the commission must now agree to close pockets of international waters in the Pacific to halt fishing violations and allow tuna stocks to replenish,” said Lagi Toribau, Greenpeace head of delegation to WCPFC.

Greenpeace has been working with Pacific governments to address overfishing and prevent foreign fishing powers from plundering their fishing grounds. The environmental group is calling for marine reserves to be established in four high seas pockets known as the Pacific Commons, and for these be declared off- limits to fishing. At the upcoming meeting, it is also seeking a ban on the use of  FADs in purse seine fisheries and a 50% reduction in the catch of bigeye tuna (3).

The Philippines, host of this week’s meeting, is a regular cooperating member of the WCPFC. The country’s tuna industry is heavily dependent on the supply of tuna caught in the Pacific. Last October, the WCPFC granted the country rights for 36 vessels to fish in Pocket 1 which was previously closed to all fishing vessels.

The Greenpeace ship Esperanza is currently in Manila for the international WCPFC meeting which ends on December 6. The ship will remain in the country for the Philippines’ “Ocean Defender Ship Tour” from December 8 to 15.

Greenpeace is campaigning for a global network of marine reserves covering 40% of the world’s oceans and for a more sustainable fishing industry – two necessary steps to restoring our oceans to health. The group is also working with retailers and tuna brands across Europe, the Americas and the Asia-Pacific to increase the market share of sustainably sourced tuna.

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