ENVIRONMENTAL groups have welcomed a decision by eight Pacific nations to block tuna fishing in pockets of international waters. See the story or keep reading.
A meeting in Palau of 17 Pacific countries, including Australia, yesterday noted the plan to stop boats from fishing for tuna in two large areas of international waters.
The so-called "doughnut holes" were identified as having been plundered by tuna fishermen.
One is north of Papua New Guinea, and the other is further east.
The plan to protect the areas was agreed to by the Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Tuvalu.
From June 15, all tuna vessels licensed to fish in their waters will be banned from taking tuna in the two areas.
Boats entering the protected waters from any of the eight signatory countries will have to carry fisheries observers on board at all times.
The move was prompted by fears that many stocks of valuable tuna species such as yellow fin and big eye are being fished at unsustainable levels.
"This is an historic moment in fisheries management in the region," said Greenpeace oceans campaigner Jason Collins.
"The Australian Government support for Pacific Island countries taking such a bold step was helpful, but we need to see Australia taking a leadership role in ensuring that these areas of international waters are closed to fishing.
Greenpeace oceans campaigner Lagi Toribau said vessels determined to get into the doughnut holes could, in theory, still enter via the seas of countries that had not signed up, such as Fiji.
"That will be part of a bigger fight the eight countries take to Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission meeting in December," he said.
He said while the fishing restrictions could push up the price of tuna, sustainable fishing would mean more stable prices in the long term.
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