New Zealand’s foreign minister, Murray McCully, said time was running out to save one of the world’s last sustainable fishing areas, the Pacific. (photo, from bbcimg.co.uk)
According to Mr McCully, in order to stop illegal fishing, which was endangering tuna and other fish stocks, new and concerted efforts are needed.
New Zealand, which is the largest provider of aerial surveillance of Pacific Island economic exclusion zones, has called on the United States and Australia for help.
Although the US Coast Guard is a strong contributor to that work, Mr McCully speaking at the US-NZ Partnership Forum in Christchurch, said more surveillance would make a big difference.
He added that every year more than $300m worth of fish was being stolen.
“I believe the time has come for New Zealand, the US and Australia to dramatically step up our collective surveillance activity in the region to provide a comprehensive assault on illegal activity,” he said.
He described the Pacific as “the last major fishery on the planet that has not been exploited beyond the point of sustainability”.
“(We) have a major responsibility to our neighbours to ensure that sustainable management practises are put in place soon,” he said.
“We are fast running out of time.”
Each year in economic zones declared by Pacific states an estimated $1.5bn in legitimate fishing takes place. However those states are unfit to conduct the amount of surveillance necessary to protect the resource.
Mr McCully also said that the inroads made by poachers into lucrative tuna grounds were particularly damaging to Pacific communities. He even said some of them were “facing sub-Saharan levels of poverty”.
Unless measures were taken in order to address overfishing, population growth and climate change, fish stocks in the Pacific could collapse by 2035, according to a report published last year.