WITH Pacific eyes watching every move made by China in its slow, systemic advance into the region and its tightening grip on fisheries stocks, the latest threat has been largely overlooked. Coming out of the Indian Ocean, Spain’s super seiners have been decimating tuna across the Pacific from Papua New Guinea to Easter Island.
On each trip these behemoths of the tuna industry haul in 3000 tonnes – more than double the average annual catch of many Small Island Developing States. Greenpeace activist Lagi Toribau was blunt in his assessment of the situation. “Spain’s tuna interests is taking over the world – I think we should not allow them to come in,” Toribau said outside the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission meeting here yesterday.
“On the basis of (Spain’s) capacity and the fact that they are highly dependent on Fish Aggregating Devices (FADs) at a time when Bigeye (tuna) is at its lowest level of 16 per cent of unfished stocks, I think we should not allow them.” Bigeye stocks have fallen below 20 per cent – the level scientists believe is needed to keep the species safe.
This has happened despite repeated efforts by the Tuna Commission to improve conservation measures meant to protect them. Already Spain has control of the Indian Ocean tuna fisheries stocks. Its catch in the Pacific is skipjack from purse seiners with high levels of juvenile or baby bigeye normally offloaded in Kiribati and the Solomon Islands and destined for Europe.