The Esperanza was the first Greenpeace ship to be named by visitors to our web site. Users picked the Spanish word for "hope" – and true to its name the Esperanza has been bringing hope to a dark world for over 10 years now, giving environmentalists and their vision for a better world a global platform. As I write this message-bearing vessel is in our corner of the earth – visiting South Korea, Taiwan and Hong Kong in order to shine a light on the plight of our oceans and the tuna fish that call them home.
Seventy percent of the world's tuna supply, about two million tonnes each year, comes from the seas in our backyard - the Western and Central Pacific Ocean. And Greenpeace East Asia's Actions Campaigner Lang Xiyu is clear on whom the culprits are when it comes to over-fishing:
"Industrialized fishing powers like South Korea and Taiwan are the ones mostly using indiscriminate fishing techniques and reaping huge profits at the expense of coastal states. It doesn't make any sense to continue building new fishing vessels that target dwindling fish stocks."
While the plight of sharks, whales and dolphins may attract headlines, the classic tuna fish too faces a gloomy future. It is an animal too many of us have no problem slicing up and serving in our sushi, or out of a can, ready to be spread on two slices of sandwich bread. But the fact is magnificent species like the majestic Bluefin tuna - which weighs in at 700kg and can accelerate faster than a Porsche – has been scooped out of the sea at alarming rates.
Over-fishing and illegal fishing are not the only problems facing the ocean. Rising ocean temperatures is also causing coral reefs to slowly die out (‘bleaching’) through lack of oxygen. These reefs are critical to biodiversity – they play host to the thousands of tropical fish and plants that make a reef a colorful, exotic ecosystem. But when corals die, so does the life that depends on them.
Unfortunately, even conservative predictions suggest that coral reefs may die out completely by the end of the 21st century without immediate action on climate change. Other climate change impacts on the oceans include ocean acidification, rising sea levels and changing currents.
While the problems of the oceans may be far reaching and complex, the solution is relatively straightforward – marine reserves, now!
By creating a worldwide network of marine reserves that cover 40% of the world's oceans, we may have a chance at reversing the terrible exploitation of fish populations - which if current trends continue could see complete commercial fish populations exhausted by 2048. These marine reserves act like national parks on land. And right now less than 1% of the world's oceans are protected.
Inspiring the citizens of the South Korea, Taiwan and Hong Kong to get behind marine reserves is just another little ray of hope that The Esperanza is bringing to East Asia. Will you get behind our ship's call?
Image © Alex Hofford / Greenpeace