ew Report Documents Damage to the Pacific Ocean from Investments in Destructive Longline Fishing
Only weeks after the World Bank announced a new project to promote sustainable fishing, a new report documents how controversial bank investments in longline fishing in the Pacific are contributing to overfishing for tuna and an extinction crisis for sea turtles and seabirds. As the World Bank prepares for its annual meeting on September 24-25th, new questions arise as to the destructive impact of investments by the World Bank and other multilateral development banks on the ocean and fisheries resources.

The report, Bankrupting the Pacific: How Multilateral Development Banks are Contributing to Overfishing and Helping Push Sea Turtles and Seabirds to the Brink of Extinction in the Pacific, released by the Sea Turtle Restoration Project today, shows how the International Finance Corporation, a member of the World Bank Group, and Asian Development Bank poured millions of dollars into destructive longline fishing in the Pacific. These investments were made in critical nesting and migratory habitats of critically endangered sea turtles and seabirds without any assessment of the impact on biodiversity of the regions where the projects took place and in direct violation of their own environmental and fisheries policies.

“Asian Development Bank and World Bank Group investments in longline fishing have helped drive the 100 million year old leatherback sea turtle to the brink of extinction in the Pacific,” warns Robert Ovetz, PhD, Save the Leatherback Campaign Coordinator with the US-based NGO the Sea Turtle Restoration Project and lead author of the report.

The female nesting population of the 100 million year old Pacific leatherback sea turtle has collapsed by 95 percent since 1980. The leatherback is listed as critically endangered by the World Conservation Union and scientists warn that it could extinct in the next 5-30 years unless immediate action to remove threats to its survival such as longline fishing. The Pacific loggerhead sea turtle and the black-footed albatross are also caught primarily by longlines and considered on the precipice of extinction. Longline fishing is the main threat to albatross seabirds, 19 of the 21 of the species of which are considered threatened or endangered.

“The banks do not even follow their own weak environmental policies. Despite the fact that longlines catch or kill about 4.4 million non-target sharks, seabirds, sea turtles, billfish and marine mammals each year in the Pacific alone, in each case, the banks found that no environmental impact report was even required.” noted Ovetz.

These investments have also triggered overfishing of the very resource that was supposed to contribute to long-term development. Recent reports in the scientific journals Nature and Ecology have warned that tuna, billfish and shark populations have declined by 87-99 percent in the Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico and the Pacific since the 1950s.

According to Ovetz, “the multi-lateral banks are directly to blame for contributing to the crash in bigeye and albacore tuna in the Pacific, a crucial source of revenue for impoverished coastal and island nations.”

The report calls for the banks to cancel ongoing longline fishing projects, implement a moratorium on all future longline projects, and implement a set of reforms of their own practices to prevent further damage to the ocean ecosystem.


• For a copy of the report Bankrupting the Pacific click here.

• For a review copy of the Sea Turtle Restoration Project’s new documentary film Last Journey for the Leatherback? contact Robert Ovetz, PhD.