Yen Ning, Greenpeace campaigner: “Super-low temperature long-line fishing boats reel out long, long fishing lines that stretch for 10km, even hundreds of km, on the ocean surface. Purse seiners cast fish aggregating devices (FADs) one after the other. Our oceans are being emptied without restraint. It wasn’t until I saw these massive ships that I truly understood what industrial large-scale fishing actually was. It made me even more determined to defend out oceans.”
The cure for seasickness
Yen Ning was a volunteer translator last year when she boarded the Greenpeace ship, Esperanza. “On the third day I was still feeling sick. Then I went out onto the deck to take a breath of fresh air and stretched my legs. I didn’t feel sick anymore.” After getting used to life on the boat, she officially got stuck into the oceans defenders campaign. She boarded fishing boats, talked with fishermen and she really began to understand how overfishing was constantly threatening to marine ecosystems and the livelihoods of fishermen.
“I saw the catch that large purse seine fishing boats were bringing in. It was many dozens of times bigger than that of the smaller fishing boats. As well as skipjack tuna, there would be a lot of accidental catch such as sharks and turtles that would be struggling in the net. Fishermen in smaller boats were concerned about this. They said they were gobbling up more and more fish and they themselves were left with smaller and smaller catches. They were really worried about their future.”
Tuna indicates ocean health
Why should we care about tuna? “Because tuna is at the top of the food chain. They’re an indicator for ocean health. But large-scale fishing boats using destructive fishing methods catch millions of tons of tuna every year. Soon there will be no tuna left. This is a big blow to the lives of fishermen and seriously disrupts the marine ecological balance.”
Yen Ning is now a Greenpeace Oceans campaigner, and is continuing her work defending the oceans. “We are taking part in regional fishing industry management meetings, pushing many countries to make their fishing industries sustainable, while in Taiwan we are actively pushing the government to regulate the fishing sector, set limits to what they can catch, prohibit the use of FADs, and to support fencing off parts of the high seas to protect the interests of legitimate fishing boats.”
Greenpeace’s penguin friend, Percy, kept popping up in Seoul this summer. What was he up to?
South Korea is 13,000 km away from the Antarctic, but South Korea’s fishing fleet ranks second in the world for catches in the Antarctic Ocean. Over the past 10 years they have plundered stocks of Antarctic toothfish in the Southern Ocean. As one of the 25 member countries of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR), South Korea can play a crucial part in helping to protect the Antarctic Ocean. Percy the penguin was in South Korea to call attention to the threats facing the Antarctic Ocean, and rallying the people of South Korea to help him protect his homeland.
A protocol on environmental protection to the Antarctic Treaty was established in 1991, propelled by pressure from environmental groups including Greenpeace. Although large areas should be placed under protection according to the protocol, implementation has been exceedingly slow it has not formally been established as a conservation region, thus the Antarctic Ocean remains threatened from the threats of over-fishing and large-scale commercial fishing.
One Hundred Taiwan’s
In October, the CCAMLR will meet to discuss setting up a series of marine reserves in the Antarctic Ocean. Greenpeace and several partner organizations have set up an Antarctic Ocean Alliance (AOA), to push for creating a network of 19 large no-take marine reserves covering over 40% of the Southern Ocean, which would include the Antarctic Ross Sea, an area scientists call the “Last Ocean”, for its unique status as the most pristine and untouched marine ecosystem left on Earth. Greenpeace and the AOA is calling specifically for 3.6 million square kilometers of marine protection in the Ross Sea, an area equal to over a third of China’s land area.
Percy and our Seoul office want South Korea to support the widest possible protection for the Antarctic Ocean at that meeting in October.
Why is the Antarctic Toothfish so important?
The Antarctic Toothfish is one of the most important catches for long-distance fishing fleets in the Southern Ocean and it’s also the largest fish living there. It has a lifespan of around 35 years, but it doesn’t start breeding until it’s between 6 and 9 years old. So when they are faced with the threat of overfishing and illegal fishing they struggle to maintain their numbers.
The Antarctic Toothfish is critical to maintaining the ecological balance in the South Pole and they are an important part of the food chain. The decline of Killer Whales, which feed on Toothfish, is a sure sign that this fish is in trouble.
The world’s last ocean
The Ross Sea makes up only about 2% of the Antarctic Ocean, and is largely untouched by humans. This can be seen in its relatively intact biodiversity: unlike most oceans it still has most of its top predators. It is home to a rich selection of wildlife including Adélie penguins, emperor penguins, Antarctic Minke whales, South Pacific sea lions, and a species of killer whales which are unique to the Ross Sea and many species waiting to be discovered.