Pacific island countries warn UN debate of threats from overfishing

UN News Centre

24 September 2010 - Unsustainable fishing of shark and tuna is threatening stocks and jeopardizing the health of the fragile economies of many small island States, the leaders of two Pacific Ocean nations told the General Assembly's high-level debate today in New York.

"We must reorient our priorities to put biodiversity and the welfare of our ecosystems first," said Palau's President Johnson Toribiong. "In doing so, we can serve both our long-term commercial interests and protect the natural bounty that sustains us."

This week Palau and Honduras signed a joint declaration calling on other nations to stop unsustainable shark fishing, and Mr. Toribiong noted that the health of sharks is closely linked to the health of tuna.

"Palau and other countries rely on tuna as their principal fisheries resource, and the world community relies on it as an important food source. We must work together to ensure the continued viability of this important stock."

Nauru's President Marcus Stephen stressed in his address that the preservation of regional tuna stocks is essential to the Pacific's food security and economic development.

"Regrettably, the sustainability of the tuna stocks and other marine resources that we rely on is threatened by actions beyond our control," Mr. Stephen said.

"Illegal, unreported and unregulated overfishing by large fishing nations is rife in the Pacific, and we lack sufficient resources to respond to this criminal activity. One of the pillars of our economic future is literally being stolen from our children."