Pacific Depths

The devastation facing the population of Nauru, after they exhausted their major natural resources, risks being repeated around the Pacific if measures aren’t taken to protect fish stocks, experts have warned.

Leading scientists and senior officials from regional fisheries authorities caution that over-fishing by commercial Western and Asian fleets is pushing stocks well beyond sustainable limits and threatening the livelihood of 100 million people in South-East Asian and Pacific countries.

While commercial fishing is a 3 billion dollar industry in the Pacific region alone, tuna and other fish also form a very important staple in the diet of the many semi-subsistence communities in the area.

Glenn Hurry, Chairman of the newly formed Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC), stated that tuna stocks in the Pacific were being squeezed “from both ends”, with young tuna fish being targeted in their spawning grounds. Hurry also blamed the use of long-line fishing by fleets for pushing stocks of yellowfin and big-eye tuna beyond sustainable levels.

Worsening the situation, Pacific nations have been allowing access to fleets at very low rates. In compensation, some of these nations have allowed the fleets to take even greater catches.

Research outlining how over-fishing is threatening the livelihood of up to 100 million people, will be presented in Sydney next week by leading scientist Dr Meryl Williams. A full meeting of the WCPFC commission members, bringing together Pacific nations and the Western and Asia countries that fish in the region, is to be held in Guam in early December.

The Age

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