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Overfishing in the Pacific, the plundering continues

People in the Pacific have been fishing in the ocean for thousand of years and are able to manage the traditional fishing grounds responsibly. At the moment a fleet of locally stationed boats, the property of foreign and local companies, catches around 200,000 tons of tuna per year (10% of the total catch). But increasing numbers of industrial long-distance fishing fleets are heading for the Pacific and are taking around 1,800,000 tons (90% of the total catch) of fish to other parts of the world.

Industrial fishing fleets have depleted and almost destroyed their own fishing grounds. Instead of accepting that they need to reduce the volumes of fish, the fishing fleets turn their eager eyes to the Pacific Ocean and West Africa. Instead of reducing their catch and the number of boats in order to let their own fishing grounds recover, countries such as China, Korea, Taiwan, Japan, the U.S. and the EU simply head on to the next fishing grounds - the Pacific Ocean. Instead of solving their own problem, the Northern fishing fleets bring their own problems to the reasonably healthy oceans in the south.

The future of these oceans and that of the coastal communities that depend on them, is in increasingly in the hands of fishermen who lack scruples and at the mercy of a growing global demand for tuna for instance. These ships often sail under non-complying flags, which means that they manage to get around international agreements. It also often means that they travel under the flags of countries that have not signed any international agreements with regards fish quotas for instance. The Irish and the biggest trawler in the world, the Atlantic Dawn was a great example of this. The European Union pointed out to Ireland that its pelagic fleet was already 40% bigger than agreed. It was refused a permit. The Atlantic Dawn and the Veronica then obtained a Panamanian flag and were able to fish legally in Mauritanian waters.