The Pacific is a big ocean. You can sail for days without seeing another ship (as we just did). But now we're in the fishing grounds, and starting to spot fishing vessels.

Knowing where to go

There're some things you can't know about a place until you go there.

This is Greenpeace's 8th expedition focusing on Pacific tuna fishing. We've been building an understanding of the industry, and how things work out here at sea since 2004 – with the help of governments, regional authorities, other organizations and some companies and workers who want to see the tuna industry change for the better.

So our captain, mates and onboard fishery experts plotted a course for one of the areas of international waters where we expected fishing activity.

© Mark Smith / Greenpeace

Glimmer of light

Last night, our bridge watch spotted the reflection of light from a ship on the clouds. We were far off and didn't want to get too close in the night, for fear of alerting them to our presence.

We made plans to send the helicopter for a look in the morning, with a photographer on board.

Flying far and wide

Although we had a clue to go on, it wouldn't be easy to find one lone ship in this vast expanse of ocean. Spotting a speck in the distance while you're flying at high speed isn't easy.

Fortunately, our heli team found not only one ship, but several. They brought back photos, ship names and radio call signs (painted on the ships in big letters). Our experts on board and researchers on land checked these against maritime databases, and information from previous work. We selected one of the closer ones for a visit.

© Mark Smith / Greenpeace

One person's first look at life on a tuna ship

The ship we caught up with was about 40 metres (130 feet) long, and had been at sea for months. The crew told us they changed fishing areas in that time because some where too crowded.

Lauren is a guest food blogger on board the Rainbow Warrior (read her updates here). She's traveled with us into the Pacific to learn where the tuna on her plate comes from. She hasn't spent much time at sea, and this was the first chance she'd had to visit a tuna fishing vessel.

For her, seeing the living conditions on board was a rude awakening. Cramped cabins, rusting fire extinguishers, not much in the way of a galley (kitchen) – in short a ship that's not particularly old, but likely spending virtually all its time at sea with minimal maintenance.

For the more seasoned members of our documentation team, it looked pretty normal, maybe even better than average. It is hard to imagine people living in these conditions (and worse) for months (or years) on end. But for the people doing it, it's a way to earn a living, and for some a way to support their family.

Lauren also was surprised by how friendly the fishing ship's crew were. They seemed glad to have guests, and show her around the ship. They chatted and took photos of us with their mobile phones.

Another surprise, the captain had not only heard of Greenpeace, but had seen one of our documentaries about the tuna industry. (Maybe this one.) It's good to know we're reaching people out here.

© Mark Smith / Greenpeace

The Greenpeace Ship Rainbow Warrior sailing into the Pacific Ocean to confront the fishing industry with a simple message: It's time to change tuna.

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