Greenpeace activists set to board a Taiwanese long-liner.

The Esperanza cut through the deep blue Pacific waters, hot on the heels of a Taiwanese long-liner. As soon as we were in kissing distance Greenpeace activists boarded speedboats and came up alongside the white fishing vessel carrying bold yellow banners: "MARINE RESERVES NOW" they read, one in English and another in Chinese.

Greenpeace outside of Taiwan's Legislative Yuan.

Just a day later and a few thousand kilometers away in Taiwan's capital, Taipei, another set of Greenpeace activists were too holding yellow banners. These volunteers sought to expose problems in the current budget of the government's Fisheries Agency. In the last 10 years, the Fisheries Agency had already spent nearly 75% of 300 million euro to subsidize overfishing. And the Fisheries Agency should not be investing in a destructive and irresponsible fishing industry with money from tax payers. This aging industry will only lead to a serious depletion in tuna numbers and turn Taiwan into the top tuna killer in the world.

Yesterday was the beginning of the Legislative Yuan's eighth session, which is where Taiwanese legislators will run through budget proposals for the next year. Greenpeace volunteers were there to remind officials to ensure their Fisheries Agency budget accords with their previous claims of sustainable growth. Currently in the Pacific Ocean there are simply too many vessels chasing after fewer and fewer fish. And it's a crisis that doesn't benefit anyone.

Greenpeace is calling for the creation of marine reserves in four pockets of international waters known as the Pacific commons. Almost all purse seine‎ fishing has been banned from these pockets, an area nearly half the size of Europe. But they remain open to long-lining fishing by the large Asian fishing fleets. You can only really get the full benefit of marine reserves if you ban all fishing activities in those areas. If turned into marine reserves these pockets can act as sanctuaries where the migratory tuna can breed in safety to replenish the stocks.

We're also demanding an end to destructive and wasteful fishing practices and a 50% reduction in tuna fishing efforts. These measures are vital to return tuna stocks to a sustainable level. Governments, such as Taiwan, and all fishing companies must make their tuna fishing sustainable or risk losing this valuable species forever, thereby placing the economic prosperity and food security of the region in peril.

Also see: A lose/lose situation: Why is Taiwan subsidizing the depletion of tuna?

Greenpeace activists board a Taiwanese long-liner vessel.

Greenpeace protest against bad subsidies.

And watch this video to learn more about the decline of tuna numbers in the Pacific and what we can do to combat it:

Images © Paul Hilton