Monday, April 02, 2012

Tuna Wars in the Pacific!

Southern Bluefin - now revealed as being Critically Endangered!

I still don't quite know what happened at the WCPFC meeting.
Probably nothing to be too happy about, if this wail by Greenpeace is anything to go by.

But then again, that's just what Greenpeace do.
They have decided to take on the Tuna industry, have published at least one rather good overview and post a lot of videos, of which the following is a more moderate example whereas this one is an unmitigated messaging disaster.

The industry is not taking it laying down.
It has countered with it's own anti-Greenpeace website and with polished videos like this one.

Personally, I find all of this rather unbecoming and little goal oriented.
If one remained rational, both sides should be able to cooperate as they should be striving for the same outcome, i.e. long term sustainability. But such is the nature of those fights: fishermen over-fish and NGOs over-dramatize and I'll certainly leave it at that.

Luckily, we don't have to care all too much.
Ultimately, neither Greenpeace nor the for Tuna fishing industry have any say in this - those who take the decisions are the members of the WCPFC.
But here is the bad news: the membership is not being limited to the owners of the resource, i.e. the countries within the boundaries of the area covered by the convention but has instead been extended to the notorious resource pillagers like Europe (=Spain!!!), the US, Japan, Taiwan and China. Can somebody please explain why those countries are being allowed to arrogate themselves the right to decide about the resources that do not belong to them? Is that the dark side of development aid?
The bad news is also, that this particular convention (Art.20) mandates decisions by consensus or failing that, by a complicated 3/4 majority, meaning that positive change is painfully hard to come by and can always be blocked by one of those countries that are not members of the Pacific Islands Forum.
The good news? The member states are free to legislate further-reaching measures within their territories, and the PNA have done just that, and this very much in favor of sustainability, and are now calling the big fishing nations to task, as do the more forward thinking and pragmatic NGOs - alas probably in vain.

Long story short?
As always, it is terribly complicated and I'm sure that I'm missing the finer points. Where I am coming from in this particular debate is that I certainly advocate preserving the Pacific's vibrant and profitable commercial fishing industry as a vital contribution to the islands' economies, this however strictly under the following guidelines.
  • the absolute need to focus on sustainability in order to preserve the industry for generations to come - and by this, I mean sustainability in the widest possible sense, very much taking into consideration issues like bycatch and other more general impacts on the ecosystem, etc
  • the absolute requirement to apply the precautionary approach (Article 6) whenever there is a debate
  • and like I said before, I believe that it is high time that the burden of proof be changed so that it would be the comparatively wealthy fishing industry having to invest the resources into science and monitoring and prove that what they do is sustainable, and not the cash-strapped authorities having to prove that it is not.
  • And if I really, really had it my way: I would tell those foreign fleets to just fuck off and those countries, to buy their Tuna from the Pacific Islands who own them!
But most urgently, those destructive practices must go.
The FADs are an ecological disaster, and I strongly invite you to read David's posts here and here and educate yourselves about just how bad they are. Seriously, read them: talk about an emotional initiative by the Dolphin geeks gone horribly wrong! And the long lining industry could do much better by finally adopting the various options for bycatch mitigation as e.g. mandated by the MSC - and incidentally, catch more Tuna in the process!

And to end this on a positive note.
This is completely bycatch-free, stunningly filmed by my pal Richard Wollocombe.

PS interesting article shedding some light on the negotiations here!
PS2 Pew synopsis, finally, here!
PS3 Tuna fishing ban lifted - remember?

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