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Greenpeace documents action in Pacific ‘pocket’

SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, September 13, 2009) -- Activists on the Greenpeace ship Esperanza yesterday witnessed a Japanese vessel hauling a massive catch in the Pacific Ocean using the banned fish aggregating device (FAD).

The activists unfurled banners saying 'Marine reserves now' and 'No return from overfishing' as they filmed a Japanese purse seiner Fukuichi Maru take tuna in a pocket of international waters in the Pacific where key tuna stocks are threatened with collapse.

Greenpeace media adviser Josephine Prasad said they documented the ship using a fish aggregating device (FAD), supposedly banned in the Pacific region for two months.

She said a gaping loophole in the ban was allowing fleets from Japan, the Philippines and New Zealand to continue their plunder of the Pacific.

Japan is the world's largest consumer of tuna and fleets from Japan catch more than a quarter of the Pacific tuna taken annually.Greenpeace Australia Pacific Oceans campaigner Josua Turaganivalu said countries were making a mockery of the two-month ban on FAD fishing.

"In our first week on the high seas, we came across six of the fish aggregating devices although they are banned.

"Today we witnessed a Japanese vessel hauling a massive catch from a FAD, and exemptions in the ban are allowing them to get away with this plunder," said Mr. Turaganivalu.

"A total ban on the use of fish aggregation devices is urgently needed. If Pacific tuna species are not protected soon, it will spell the end, not just of Japan's favourite sushi but of a vital resource of Pacific Island countries."

Greenpeace is calling on Japan's new government to lead other major fishing nations in the region to agree to an immediate 50 per cent reduction in Pacific tuna catch, support the closure of all four pockets of international waters to fishing activities, and have them declared as marine reserves to allow tuna stocks to recover.

Several tuna species, such as Pacific bigeye and yellowfin, are already fished beyond their limits and continue to face the spectre of species collapse.

Responding to this, the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) -- the Pacific's tuna governing body, of which Japan is a member -- agreed to close two of the pockets to purse seine tuna fishing from 2010 onward.

A ban on FAD use in August and September was also instituted. Pacific Island countries also proposed in May to close all four pockets of international waters in between their economic zones where the significant amount of tuna fishing was taking place.

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