Karli is the lead campaigner onboard the Esperanza for the Defending Our Pacific tour.
Last week, we found no less than four Taiwanese fishing vessels on the high seas in the space of just three days. We took action against two of them (Mike wrote about those vessels and the actions we did in this post). Though this makes it seem as if these vessels and their crews are our adversaries in the fight to save the Pacific tuna stocks and close the four high seas pockets to all fishing, that is not the case. We were not there to try and tell these captains what to do, but rather to give them the information their employers might not be giving him, to appeal to their sense of morality, and to ask them to stop plundering the Pacific.
Greenpeace activists ask the captain of the Ming Jhy Fwu No. 16 to haul in his long-line after giving him information about our campaign and the state of Pacific fisheries. © Paul Hilton/Greenpeace
What we do oppose is the corporations they work for, which are colluding with the Taiwanese government – just as so many other corporations are colluding with governments around the world – to trap them and their crews into economic circumstances that only benefit the corporation, while also blatantly disregarding the plight of Pacific fisheries and the theft of fish right out of Pacific islanders’ waters.
Our adversaries are also governments, like that of Taiwan, that continue to ignore the warnings of scientists about Pacific fish stocks and instead allow new fishing vessels to be built and sent out to chase after fewer and fewer fish. One of the ships we encountered last week, the Ming Jhy Fwu No. 16, was just built in 2006 – at a time when we were already aware that overfishing in the Pacific was having dire consequences.
The captain of the Ming Jhy Fwu No. 16 seemed like a thoughtful guy. As Mike described, he sat right down and read the campaign literature we gave him with genuine interest. We are not against this captain or his crew. If anything, we have total sympathy for him and are glad to be on his side.
By allowing this vessel, and many, many others like it, to leave the ship-building yards and join the already bloated fleet in the Pacific, countries like Taiwan are locking their own fishing industry – and people like the captain of the Ming Jhy Fwu No. 16 – into a vicious cycle whereby they must fish to make a return on what they have invested in their fishing ship and gear. If governments do not take responsibility, the fishing industry will simply fish itself to death.
Though Taiwan has reduced its fishing capacity in the past years, they still build more vessels and then simply get them flagged under foreign nations. But it's usually still owned by the same owners. The fishing industry is always trying to find and exploit loopholes to avoid national, regional and international regulations. This irresponsible behavior on the part of the fishing industry compromises Taiwan's efforts.
The Taiwanese government and the regional fisheries management organization have to take a much stricter stand on the continued introduction of new capacity into the region and drastically reduce the masses of overcapacity of the fleets that currently exists.
It’s not just Taiwan that has such recent additions to its fleets. In fact, you might recall that on the first leg of the tour we exposed a refueling operation involving a brand new “super-seiner,” a massive fishing vessel with nets large enough to encircle whole schools of tuna and all the other marine life that is swimming with them. That ship, the American Legacy, only left the shipyard for its maiden voyage in 2008.
This is a cycle that we need to break, and this year is going to be a deciding moment for the Pacific. Through the Defending Our Pacific expedition, Greenpeace has again provided evidence that fishing in the high seas is undermining management and threatening the Pacific. We’ve also demonstrated that transshipment by long-line vessels and the use of fish aggregating devices (FADs) by purse seiners are enabling the plunder of marine life.
It’s time for those countries that want a future for their fishing fleets to stand up and be counted alongside the Pacific island countries in their call for the high seas to be closed to fishing.
September 02, 2009 - Activists from the Esperanza display banners alongside a Taiwanese fishing vessel that was illegally transferring fish to another vessel in the Western Pacific Ocean. The transfer of fish at sea is one of the methods used around the world to cover up illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU or pirate) fishing activities. © Greenpeace/Paul Hilton
Last week, The Commonwealth released a report written by 26 scientists and academics that underscores the drastic need for government action on overfishing and climate change in order to stave off a collapse of global fisheries. The report warns that the oceans could soon become as barren as deserts and goes on to say:
The study reveals that those least responsible for the state of the oceans are most likely to suffer the consequences of poor management and climate change. Small island states in particular are vulnerable to illegal and unfair fishing by foreign fleets and to migration of fish away from warming seas.
The Esperanza has been in the Pacific region since May to support Pacific Island countries on issues ranging from climate change to fisheries collapse and marine conservation (read more here and here).
But of course Greenpeace’s history in the Pacific Ocean goes back much further than that — all the way back to the early 1970s when we were protesting the French nuclear blasts at Moruroa. The fallout from these blasts also disproportionately affected those Pacific islanders living downwind from the blast sites — another instance of those not responsible for a problem suffering the most. While there was nothing technically illegal about these blasts, the total disregard for human health and welfare only highlights how egregiously immoral they were.
The industrialized commercial fishing vessels that are literally stealing fish from Pacific island nations' waters is just another example of the developed world doing as they please and disregarding the well-being of the people affected by their actions. That's why it’s very encouraging that eight Pacific island nations have come together and are standing up for their rights against the invading international commercial fishing fleets.
Pacific island states are not the only developing nations that are banding together to force the developed world to live up to their moral obligations: “Africa will demand billions of dollars in compensation from rich polluting nations at a UN climate summit for the harm caused by global warming on the continent, African officials said Sunday.”
Lest we doubt that there is any need for this stand by African nations, even the World Bank, which has not historically been known as a good friend to the developing world (Naomi Klein's The Shock Doctrine documents ample evidence of this assertion), is warning of the threats those nations are facing as the climate crisis looms: “The World Bank estimates that the developing world will suffer about 80 percent of the damage of climate change despite accounting for only around one third of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.”
So the real question we must be asking ourselves is: Will the developed world stand up and do the right thing in regard to these moral obligations?
Greenpeace released the “America’s Share of the Climate Crisis: A State-By-State Carbon Footprint” report back in May to highlight the United States’ responsibility for leading the world's efforts to stop global warming given our outsized role in creating the problem.
Sign our petition to President Obama letting him know that Americans expect world leaders to agree to a climate deal that is ambitious, fair and binding this December in Copenhagen.
Whether or not that’s the true origin of the phrase, it makes an apt introduction to what we witnessed yesterday. We literally caught the Japanese ship Koyu Maru 3 red-handed, hauling in its long-line and catching tuna within Cook Islands waters, where the ship does not have a license to fish.
The Koyu Maru 3 in Cook Islands waters. Image © Paul Hilton/Greenpace
We provided the Cook Islands Ministry of Marine Resources and the Fisheries Agency of Japan with photographic evidence of the illegal activity, which you can see here, and are now calling for the arrest of the ship’s captain.
The crew of the Koyu Maru 3 hauling in their long-line. Image © Paul Hilton/Greenpace
The crew of the Koyu Maru hauling a tuna onto their ship. Image © Paul Hilton/Greenpace
Greenpeace is also demanding that the Japanese government order Koyu Maru 3, which is owned by Tokyo-based World Tuna Co Ltd., to stop its illegal fishing activities and sail to the nearest port for further investigation.
This is more than an issue of what’s legal and illegal. The Koyu Maru 3 and other pirate fishing vessels are stealing fish from these waters and using it for their own profit, depriving the people of the Cook Islands of a vital source of income. Josh, another Oceans campaigner onboard who is from the region, put it well when he said, “These pirates of the Pacific must be stopped from plundering ocean life and robbing local communities.”
With that in mind, we decided that documenting the plundering of their seas and providing that evidence to Cook Islands officials, and thereby helping empower them to police their own waters, would be more effective than taking action against the vessel ourselves.
Globally, more than $9 billion dollars is lost each year to pirate fishing fleets, who reap their profits in European, American and Asian markets while threatening Pacific fish stocks and depriving coastal communities of much-needed income. A recent report estimated that pirate fishing in the Pacific accounts for an average of 36% of the fish caught there, much higher than the global average of 19%.
Long-liners like the Koyu Maru 3 mainly target bigeye, yellowfin and albacore tuna, as these species fetch top dollar in sashimi markets in Japan and other countries where this delicacy has become popular. Scientists have warned, however, that some Pacific tuna stocks, particularly bigeye and yellowfin tuna, are being fished beyond their limits. Pirate fishing further threatens the stocks and undermines conservation and management attempts in the region. That’s why it’s important that local Pacific islands governments have the resources they need to protect their waters.
Sadly, I have never seen anything of much interest on any of my watches (aside from the occasional flying fish or seabird, that is). But one morning I did see some sperm whales spouting way in the distance — our wake-up call went something like this: "Good morning! It's 7:30, and there are whales off the bow!"
I didn't get to go out there and swim with the whales, but our photographer did:
Images © Paul Hilton/Greenpeace
My name is Freddy, I am from Argentina and am the current chief engineer on board the Esperanza. Since 1994 I have worked as an engineer on tankers and fishing vessels in my country. In 2002 I had the opportunity to start working as electrician on board the Arctic Sunrise, and I gladly took the opportunity. I have continued working as electrician and engineer on board all three Greenpeace ships since then.
Since people think I'm not busy enough with my 12 hours of work every day (at least), they sometimes ask me to tattoo them. I had to stop, though, because high stress levels were leading me to confuse fairies with pin-up girls... dangerous if the tattooed subject is a big hairy sailor asking for a pin-up girl.
In 2004 I had the opportunity to be part of the crew helping launch the Defending Our Oceans campaign to establish marine reserves on board the Rainbow Warrior. It was there that I found out what a FAD is and the destructiveness of the purse seiner method of fishing. Last year I was here on the Espy and again witnessed the same thing, with the only difference that the quantity of fish on the nets was getting lower and lower.
I hope this time we are able to get the full reserves and then start heavily with the enforcement. I feel really proud of having done my bit these past few years.
We were close by when the tsunami hit and were able to help immediately. For three days we transported and donated supplies of fuel, water, medicine and food, and carried out aerial surveys with our helicopter.
Before departing Samoa we offered our assistance to the nearby island nation of Tonga, but it was not needed.
We are thankful we were on hand to support the people of Samoa and our thoughts remain with them, as well as with American Samoa and Tonga, as they begin to rebuild their communities.
The Esperanza had previously been in Samoa just this past July. This was certainly not the way the crew had imagined going back, but they are very happy to have been of service to the many brave Samoans they met back then.
We have now returned to the high seas, where we’re campaigning to create a global network of marine reserves covering 40% of the world's oceans (read the Defending Our Pacific blog for more). Such a network would give protection to vulnerable areas like the high seas pockets between Pacific islands’ national waters, which are currently being overfished by foreign fleets and threatening the health of the tuna stocks and therefore the livelihoods of local communities.
The Esperanza was sailing to support Pacific countries in oceans conservation when the earthquake that caused the tsunami hit. We immediately offered assistance and equipment to the people of Samoa, and our offer was accepted by the Samoan authorities. We have medics, engineers, technicians, and logisticians on board the ship as part of the 34-strong crew. We will provide whatever help we can, under the direction of the Samoan disaster relief teams.
We have put our campaign on hold and are currently in Samoa doing whatever we can to help. I am sure you will all understand that we will be too busy to post any further blogs for now.
The use of FADs results in the bycatch of many juvenile tuna and other species like sharks, turtles, and reef fish, contributing to the depletion of fish stocks and threatening vulnerable marine life.
To really show the diversity of marine life being threatened by FADs, our divers captured some footage and we’ve put together this short video:
We left Port Vila, Vanuatu just a few days ago, and are currently in transit, headed back out to the high seas to continue our quest to stop the pillage of international waters by longline and purse seine fishing vessels.
A transit generally means a bit of down time, so I’m taking it upon myself to document some ship life for you. Check out these pics:
Our captain, Madeleine (with binoculars), and second mate, Nadia, on the Espy's bridge, charting a course out of Port Vila Harbor.
After taking my turn on "whale watch" yesterday evening, I stepped out onto the deck and noticed this high seas sunset. Pretty nice, eh?
For a bit of recent history, check out the blog posts by Mary Ann (here, here, and here), the intrepid webbie who I have replaced onboard (actually I only replaced her as webbie, she’s still onboard as a deckhand and is taking care of our waste and recycling in the role of "chief garbologist" — a noble and selfless job, I can tell you, having helped with the compost yesterday morning). As you can see from the blogs, the first leg of the tour was spent patrolling the first and second high seas zones to help enforce a temporary ban on fish aggregating devices (FADs) – highly destructive devices that catch EVERYTHING indiscriminately. FADs are commonly used by purse seine fishing vessels. We took direct action against those violating the ban. For instance, you can see the crew hauling a FAD we confiscated up on to the Espy here:
On the second leg of the tour, we’re going to continue searching out the pirates and the pillagers, and stand in solidarity with the Pacific island countries who are seeking a closure of the high seas pockets. We are also pushing for the implementation of sensible, sustainable fishing practices rather than longlines, purse seines, FADs, and all the other highly destructive fishing practices that are currently in use. Stay tuned.
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