Greenpeace calls for arrest of illegal Japanese fishing ship

Press release - 9 October, 2009
Greenpeace today called for the arrest of the captain of the Japanese ship Koyu Maru 3, which was caught fishing illegally in the Cook Islands.

The Greenpeace ship Esperanza, campaigning to end the destruction of the world's oceans, encountered the Koyu Maru 3 hauling its longline and catching tuna within Cook Islands waters, where they have no license to fish (1).

Greenpeace provided the Cook Islands Ministry of Marine Resources and the Fisheries Agency of Japan with photographic evidence of the illegal activity.

Greenpeace demands 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.

"The Koyu Maru 3 and other pirate fishing vessels are stealing fish for their own profit, depriving the people of the Cook Islands of a vital source of income. These pirates of the Pacific must be stopped from plundering ocean life and robbing local communities," said Josua Turaganivalu, Oceans Campaigner of Greenpeace Australia Pacific on board the Esperanza.

Globally, more than US $9 billion dollars is lost each year to pirate fishing fleets. Pirate fishers, who reap their profits in European, American and Asian markets, are threatening fish stocks as well as depriving coastal communities of much-needed income. A recent report estimated that pirate fishing in the Pacific accounted for an average of 36% of its total fisheries, much higher than the global average of 19% (2).

"The government of Japan must show leadership in tackling illegal fishing by its vessels in the Pacific. Furthermore, Japan must take the lead among major fishing nations and support efforts by Pacific countries to reduce fishing activities in the region by half and close all four pockets of international waters to fishing to allow tuna stocks to recover," added Wakao Hanaoka, Oceans Campaigner of Greenpeace Japan.

Long-liners like the Koyu Maru 3 mainly target bigeye, yellowfin and albacore tuna, destined for sashimi markets in Japan and other countries where this food has become popular. Scientists have warned that some Pacific tuna stocks, such as bigeye and yellowfin tuna, are being fished beyond their limits (3). Pirate fishing further threatens the stocks and undermines conservation and management attempts in the region.

Parts of the international waters in the Pacific, which are governed by the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC), are known to be especially vulnerable to pirate fishing, as previous Greenpeace expeditions have demonstrated. In May this year, Pacific countries agreed to support the closure of the four pockets of international waters located in between their economic zones to all fishing activities (4). These areas are the final refuge for dwindling tuna stocks.  In December, the WCPFC, of which Japan is a member, can finally decide to close all four pockets of international waters and, in doing so, be recognised as a global leader in oceans conservation.

The Esperanza's "Defending Our Pacific" tour is part of an international campaign for clean and healthy oceans through the creation of a global network of marine reserves and effective enforcement of laws that protect ocean life. Greenpeace is campaigning for a global network of fully protected marine reserves, covering 40% of our oceans. Healthy oceans can also play a vital role in building resilience against the devastating effects of climate change.

Notes: 1) The Koyu Maru 3 is not on the register of vessels licensed to fish in the waters of the Cook Islands, according to the Cook Islands Ministry of Marine Resources.

2) Marine Resource Assessment Group (MRAG) and the University of British Columbia (2008) "The global extent of illegal fishing".

3) Scientists have warned since 2001 that bigeye and yellowfin tuna are being fished beyond their limits, and in August this year the scientists of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission agreed that a 34-50% reduction in fishing was needed to protect stocks.

4) The pockets of international waters identified by Greenpeace as needing protection as marine reserves lie between Pacific Island country national waters - a map showing their locations is available at: