these ships fish an average of 127 days per year, while the U.S. fleet average is nearly double.

In addition, the U.S. has embarked on a in testimony to Congress as a “viThe U.S. is coming under harsh program to triple its fleet to 40 tal component” of “a strong and criticism from Pacific island naships, the maximum allowed. It mutually beneficial relationship tions and conservationists for has done so by allowing foreign between the U.S. and the 16 naramping up its catch of bigeye ships that were already fishing in tions.” But now Pokajam and othtuna at a time when scientists the area, mostly from Taiwan, to ers in the Pacific community say are calling for an immediate 30% take up the U.S. flag, as long as that other countries have instireduction. By invoking a treaty it they comply with U.S. laws. Thus, tuted more modern practices and signed with 16 Pacific island nainstead of reducing the tions, the U.S. has declared number of days spent fishitself immune from a reing, as other nations are doduction in catch that fishing, U.S. ships will increase eries scientists say is long their days. As a result, the overdue. In contrast, other fisheries experts of the Secnations are preparing for retariat of the Pacific Com10% per year cutbacks munity estimate that the starting in January 2010. catch of bigeye tuna by the “Is the Obama governU.S. purse seine fleet is ment deliberately acting in likely to rise from 4364 tons an anticonservation role, or in 2006 to 10,000-20,000 is it misguided by its advitons in a year or two. sors?” wonders Sylvester In testimony before ConPokajam, director of fisherEven as many nations pledge to reduce catches of biggress, Gibbons-Fly said the ies in Papua New Guinea, eye tuna, Thunnus obesus, the U.S. is boosting its treaty, which expires in the country that pushed take. 2013, should be renewed, hardest for conservation but he did not mention the measures. U.S. officials descientists’ call for cutbacks, the policies, leaving the U.S. behind. clined to discuss the official posiconservation measures taken by The western and central parts tion on the record. other countries, or the pressure of the Pacific Ocean hold the When it was signed in 1988, on the U.S. to follow them. He world’s last great stocks of tuna, the South Pacific Tuna Treaty declined repeatedly to be interwhich account for 60% of the glowas viewed as a model of generviewed on the record, as did a bal catch. Purse seinerssships osity and ethical fishing pracState Department spokesperson. that can scoop up entire schools tices. Under it, the U.S. taxpayer “The U.S. fleet has been a conof tunashaul in about one-quarin effect contributes most of the servation leader in many ways,” ter of the region’s catch of bigeye; money that U.S. ships pay Pawrote Sari Tolvanen, an oceans long-liners and pole-and-line cific island nations for the right campaigner for Greenpeace Interboats take the rest. But the U.S. to fish in their waters; the fee is national, in an email. “But this fleet is lopsided the other way: it’s usually 5% of the value of the simultaneous increase in capacity dominated by purse seiners, landed catch. These payments and refusal to cut fishing days which take up the juvenile fish take the place of U.S. developmakes a mockery of its record. along with the adult skipjack, acment aid to the nations whose The tuna need less fishing, not cording to fisheries scientists. Bewaters are being fished. In exmore, and this policy is incredibly cause the juveniles haven’t yet change, a set number of U.S.irresponsible.” reproduced, this practice makes it flagged ships can fish as much harder for the stocks to rebound. as they want, as long as they re—CHRISTOPHER PALA The international fishing fleets, spect the rules that govern these including the U.S.’s, agreed to practices. To this day, the U.S. ban all fishing in two huge pockfleet is widely seen as the most ets of international waters, creatlaw-abiding and provides sciening the world’s biggest no-take tists with the most accurate area (425,000 square miles). Nacatch data. tions other than the U.S. also In April 2009, William Gibbonsconsented to measures that are Fly, director of the U.S. State Dedesigned to cut fishing by 10% partment’s Office of Marine per year for the next three years; Conservation, praised the treaty

U.S. increases catches of bigeye tuna

Downloaded by on October 1, 2009 | Publication Date (Web): July 1, 2009 | doi: 10.1021/es9018546




 2009 American Chemical Society

Published on Web 07/30/2009