A recent Guardian article exposes some of the figures behind industrial tuna fishing in the pacific.
The article says that the US, China, South Korea, Japan, Indonesia and Taiwan are responsible for 80% of bigeye tuna caught each year. The remaining 20% is captured by vessels flagged to smaller fishing nations. Some of the smallest nations depend on their fisheries for basic survival.
In 2012, 2.6m tonnes of tuna were extracted from the Pacific – 60% of the global total. Scientists are in agreement that tuna is being overfished at an alarming rate. Some species are practically on the brink, with bluefin tuna populations being currently just 4% of what they were before industrial fishing commenced.
Yet, the organisation that has been entrusted by the international community to be the steward of tuna fisheries in the Pacific ocean, the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission, has failed to protect the fish for yet another year.
In spite of clear scientific advice regarding the need to reduce tuna quotas, the large fishing nations that currently haul the most, have point-blank refused to reduce their quota. Small Pacific nations have pointlessly warned of the consequences of overfishing – the big boys won’t budge.
What kind of priorities drive this irresponsible behaviour by fishing nations and those behind their commercial interests?
There is much short-term profit to be made in fisheries and the lack of regulation and enforcement in waters under the stewardship of international management organisations like the above mentioned Commission means that, in the eyes of many, if they don’t take the fish then others will come in to take it in their place.
It looks like, unless a radical change in attitude and innovative approaches to the governance and regulation of international fisheries, we may be headed for a marine version of the tragedy of the commons.
International policy actors are now more than ever before actively looking for solutions. The Global Oceans Commission has issued a call for ideas and possible solutions for the (so far) intractable problems of overfishing, illegal fishing and the governance of ocean resources. Anyone with views and ideas should contact the GOC via this link: http://www.globaloceancommission.org