There is an African saying, “If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together.”
The past week I have spent on board the Esperanza in the Indian Ocean documenting illegal fishing has taught me this. Working in a team, especially one as diverse as the crew on board, can be challenging, but we are all linked by a common goal, and our drive is fuelled with each conversation – even if meetings do go on until late in the night.
We have had a busy week; first we were boarded near Madagascar by a group of oceans officials from Madagascar, Comoros and France. They were happy to see us in the area and told us that they do their best, but that bigger groups coming together will help to protect our oceans more completely. Next, as we sailed into Mauritian waters, found a target known already by the Greenpeace community, the FV Premier, this belongs to South Korea’s largest tuna company, Dongwon Industries.
Yesterday, in Port Louis, Mauritius, Greenpeace activists demonstrated in a Mauritian port against a South Korean vessel accused of unlawfully fishing in West African waters.
Activists painted “illegal” in Korean and English on the side of the. Other activists held flags and banners describing the ship as "criminal" in light of its allegedly shady fishing operations. My job on board was to attempt to contact the vessel along with my fellow campaigner, Francois Chartier. There was no answer on any attempt. Speaking to the our activists now, I realise this was because the Premier crew was on deck watching our activity closely.
This vessel is accused of illegal, unregulated and undocumented fishing and has been refused access to several East African countries as it tries to offload its catch. Mauritius, the latest port stop for the Premier also denied the vessel permission to offload – a good sign that African countries will no longer stand to be bought by corporations tagged as illegal.
In the run up to the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission in Mauritius in May, the work we are doing here is pivotal to our political work, and documentation will go a long way in securing sustainable oceans.
As the global tuna industry transforms, the question is not who will be the next company to change but which will lose out by acting too slowly. Retailers around the world have been changing their policies to source traceable, sustainably-caught tuna, and you, the consumer, have made this happen. More consumer pressure means more positive change – will you change your tuna?
Last week was a perfect reminder for me, and for everyone on board, that the creation of sustainable oceans will not be done by one person or one group, that it will take the efforts of all involved.
Consumers have the right to know, and the power to change, but this comes with the responsibility of making the right choices.