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Big Tuna Business Interests Clash With PNA Goals Pacific Islands Nations, January 15, 13

“It is the big fishing nations of the EU, US, Japan and Asia that have historically overfished bigeye tuna.

It is their long-line fishing vessels that are responsible for much of the catch of adult bigeye tuna which is still fished 40% over the sustainable level,” PNA chairwoman Nanette Malsol said at the meeting”
In every issue that affects the world adversely in any substantial way, it is invariably the interests of wealthy, organized big business that stands in the way of the greater good of the world.
Be it land, air or sea environment, their varied but unique ecosystems, rare and endangered species, peaceful relations between the common people of nations and regions or even the health of humans themselves, the interests of big business organizations always take precedence.
Big business owners and shareholders ultimately get their way with national governments, world organizations, financial institutions and politicians of every hue falling to their entreaties and kowtowing to their solely profit-driven motives, succumbing to their effective use of both power and pelf.

This is the reason why wars continue to happen despite all sorts of efforts to prevent them from happening. It is also the reason why the world is unable to come to any substantial agreement on what to do with climate change despite its effects staring us in the face and threatening the livelihoods and lives of millions of people in low-lying and developing countries around the world.

It is also the reason why the world, particularly the poorer nations are being overwhelmed by lifestyle diseases, which was never their lot throughout history, while their traditional foods are being consigned to oblivion. And, of course, big business greed is why the global financial crisis exploded on the world. Despite all that widespread suffering since the crisis unfolded, that same greed which drove the crisis in the first place is now coming in the way of finding a solution to put the world’s economies back on track.
No matter how economists, financial wizards and so-called experts rationalize and try to explain away with their mostly specious casuistry and spurious arguments, there is no denying that greed and big business interests are at the heart of much of the world’s problems today.
The world’s inability to take the bull by the horns, that is, to tackle the greed of big business interests, is clearly what stands in the way of finding lasting solutions to these problems. The latest example of this brazen greed was seen in the Pacific Islands region early last month at the Western and Central Pacific Commission (WCPFC) meeting in Manila in the Philippines.
The WCPFC annually brings together the Pacific Islands nations and the big fishing nations to meet and decide the rules for fishing of tuna throughout the Western and Central Pacific Ocean, the world’s largest tuna fishery and often regarded as the last significant repository of the world’s tuna. The Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA), which is one of the more successful Pacific Islands regional initiatives of recent years and which manages the world’s largest sustainable tuna purse seine fishery, says the big fishing nations have yet again failed to cut their overfishing, potentially threatening fish stocks in Pacific waters.
The PNA, which manages half of the world’s skipjack tuna, the most commonly canned tuna species, is fished at sustainable levels. But bigeye tuna, a popular sashimi fish, is overfished. This is primarily caused because of the catching of juvenile fish around Fish Aggregating Devices (FADs) and long-line fishing vessel catches by the big fishing nations such as the members of the European Union, big fishing corporations from the United States, Japan and other Asian nations.

Though it is well documented that bigeye tuna is overfished to the extent of more than 40 percent, the big fishing nations like Korea and Taiwan committed to cutting their bigeye tuna catches by a mere two percent at last month’s meeting, while China agreed to a 10 percent cut. Unfortunately, this year’s meeting concluded with only a temporary measure that allows big fishing nations to continue to overfish bigeye tuna, the PNA said in a communiqué released after the meeting.
“It is the big fishing nations of the EU, US, Japan and Asia that have historically overfished bigeye tuna. It is their long-line fishing vessels that are responsible for much of the catch of adult bigeye tuna which is still fished 40% over the sustainable level,” PNA chairwoman Nanette Malsol said at the meeting.
However, as is usual in the case of such high profile meetings, big business interests concede a little by way of sops in the interests of public relations and their own image management—and of course to take the bite out of conservationist organizations’ activism. Last month’s meeting did notch up a success or two and one of the measures agreed upon has been hailed by fisheries authorities as having possible far reaching implications on the positive side of the ledger.
For one, the meeting decided on a new conservation and management measure on tuna, which will be applied until the end of 2013. The meeting also banned setting nets on whale sharks in the waters from 20 degrees South to 30 degrees North.
The other more significant outcome was the ‘flick the switch’ measure. This will allow greater transparency between vessels fishing in the exclusive economic zones (EEZs) of Pacific islands nations. The countries’ monitoring authorities will be able to see all fishing vessels in their territorial waters that are on the commission vessel monitoring system. This effectively closes one of the significant loopholes for illegal fishing.
This is indeed significant because vessels moving on the high seas to waters of member countries of the Pacific that were on their registers went blank in the process because once they moved into the sovereign nations’ EEZs, the WCFPC could not track them and advise the member countries where they were, giving the vessels unfettered access to the marine resources within the EEZs.
Explaining the measure, WCFPC director Dr. Glenn Hurry said: “They are not registered on the Forum Fisheries Agency register so there was potential for these vessels to be involved in illegal fishing or being in the waters of member countries and the member countries not knowing they were there.”
This is an excellent instance of cooperation between transnational and regional fisheries agencies and the governments of the sovereign countries in the area. It is also an affirmation that given enough international exposure and the fear of public opprobrium, governments are forced to move away from the stranglehold of big business and break the nexus between crooked politicians, legislators, bureaucrats and representatives of big business interests.

Such sustained pressure from like-minded groups like international and regional conservation agencies, activists and the regional and local media alone can unitedly hope to hold a candle to the money muscle of big business interests.

The regional fisheries authorities must be congratulated for last month’s achievement. Continuing on this track, they must do everything they can to rein in the big fishing nations to cut their bigeye fishing targets to sustainable levels as prescribed by marine scientists’ research.