Pirates of the Pacific caught in illegal tuna fishing

Press release - November 25, 2011
International waters, 25 November, 2011 – Activists from the Greenpeace ship Esperanza have demonstrated against tuna vessels operating illegally in an area known as the Pacific Commons (1) near Indonesia.

An unnamed purse seine vessel with no flag or nationality but with Filipino crew was caught illegally transshipping its tuna catch to a carrier vessel, the Lapu Lapu. The vessels were found by Greenpeace in an area which has been closed to purse seine fishing by the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) (2) and Pacific Island nations’ governments.

"It is outrageous and completely unacceptable that these vessels and their owners violated efforts by the region to protect their tuna stocks, key to their food security and economic prosperity,” said Greenpeace Australia Pacific oceans campaigner Lagi Toribau on board the Esperanza.

Pirate fishing is known to be particularly rampant in high seas areas like the Pacific Commons where monitoring and surveillance is difficult. It is estimated between 21-46% of all fish caught in the Pacific is taken by pirate fishing ships such as this (3).

“We call on the members of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission to take action against these vessels, prosecute their owners and blacklist them from further fishing. In addition, seafood companies must end their complicity in this kind of crime by refusing to source tuna from the Pacific Commons,” said Toribau.

Activists have also removed three illegal Fish Aggregation Devices (FADs) found in the area. Greenpeace is calling for a ban on FADs being used by purse seiners as the method catches and kills other sea life including threatened sharks, juvenile tuna and even the occasional turtle. 

Last week Greenpeace released a video showing shocking images of whales, a marlin and a ray dying on the decks of tuna boats due to this destructive fishing method. The video has reached a global audience with close to 90,000 views in eight days. 

This is the same indiscriminate fishing method used by the fishing fleets that supply Sealord, New Zealand's biggest canned tuna brand.

Greenpeace New Zealand oceans campaigner Karli Thomas said the use of this destructive fishing practices by the tuna industry resulted in about 200,000 tonnes of bycatch globally each year. 

“That’s the equivalent of more than one billion cans of bycatch needlessly destroyed every year (4).” 

“As New Zealand’s largest supplier of canned tuna Sealord should be ashamed to be associated with such an indiscriminate and wasteful form of fishing.  While Sealord defends purse seine fishing with FADs their competitor Pams has become a sustainability market leader in New Zealand by switching to FAD-free and pole and line caught tuna.” 

“Banning FADs in purse seine fisheries is an important step towards protecting the Pacific from an indiscriminate plunder that is threatening tuna stocks and the region's food security and economic prosperity.” 

The Greenpeace ship Esperanza is currently on an expedition "Defending Our Pacific", part of the organisation's campaign to save Pacific tuna by ending the use of destructive fishing practices, halting pirate fishing and creating marine reserves in the Pacific

With tuna stocks in other oceans now depleted, fishing fleets from Asia, USA, and Europe have turned their attention to the Pacific, the source of more than half of all tuna consumed globally.



Keiller MacDuff, on board the Esperanza, +47 2367 7986
Karli Thomas, Greenpace NZ oceans campaigner,  021 90 5582      

For photo and video contact Steve Smith, Greenpeace International Communications: +668 1298707


(1) http://www.greenpeace.org/international/en/campaigns/oceans/marine-reserves/pacific-tuna-need-marine-reserves/

(2) Also referred to as the Tuna Commission, WCPFC is an
intergovernmental body governing fisheries in the Pacific,

(3) http://www.mrag.co.uk/Documents/ExtentGlobalIllegalFishing.pdf

(4) 202,782.3 tonnes of bycatch. This would fill 1,096 million 185g cans.
Calculation based on the FAO estimates that total purse seine catches were 2.607.201 MT in 2007. 70% FAD with 10% bycatch. Greenpeace International, ‘A Growing FAD’: Kobe-II Bycatch Workshop, Brisbane 23-25 June 2010. 

Greenpeace is campaigning for a global network of marine reserves covering 40% of the world’s oceans and for a more sustainable fishing industry. Greenpeace is working with retailers across Europe, Australia and the Americas to increase the market share of
sustainably-sourced tuna.