Greenpeace is returning to the Indian Ocean to build on the work started last year by the Rainbow Warrior in support of our campaign for sustainable tuna fisheries in the region.
This year the Greenpeace vessel Esperanza will be operating in the Indian Ocean for two months to document and record fishing vessels that are operating illegally or using highly destructive and wasteful fishing techniques.
Tuna fishing in the Indian Ocean
Tuna fisheries in the Indian Ocean play a vital role in providing global supplies. An estimated 24% of the global tuna catch comes from this ocean alone. But the Indian Ocean and the tuna stocks within it are coming under increasing pressure as more and more vessels join the hunt in this multi-billion dollar fishery. It is increasingly clear that if the tuna stocks are to be protected in the Indian Ocean then urgent action needs to be taken to change the way fishing is currently operating and managed.
Foreign fishing fleets
Fishing vessels from wealthier distant nations are a major part of the problem. Travelling from locations far away from the region such as France, Spain, Taiwan, Korea, China, Japan and elsewhere, these vessels take close to 50% of the tuna catch. Destructive fishing techniques are used routinely, such as purse seines with Fish Aggregating Devices (FADs). This type of fishing, which involves setting a large net around a floating platform that attracts fish, is associated with a high level of bycatch of non-target species such as sharks, rays, turtles, whales and dolphins and juvenile tuna. Long-line fishing, also common in the Indian Ocean, has similar bycatch problems and is in need of far-reaching improvements to ensure sustainable and legal fishing. Poorly regulated tuna fishing puts more than tuna at risk – it puts many species at risk of overfishing, threatening the very health of the Indian Ocean itself.
Rapidly expanding local fleets
The problem of overfishing is not limited to the presence of these distant nations. Increasingly, regional coastal states, legitimately pursuing their rights to exploit a resource which is local to them, are investing more and more in expanding their own fishing fleets. Not only are the catches from these rapidly expanding and increasingly diverse fleets poorly documented, but it is not clear exactly how many fishing vessels are actually targeting tuna in the region. Another serious concern with these fleets includes the use of extremely destructive fishing techniques such as drift nets, the use of which has been banned on the high seas by the United Nations but is still used in the region.
Poorly managed fishing
The impacts of destructive and expanding fishing are only compounded by poor quality control and surveillance of tuna fisheries in the region. Unless this is changed, the impacts on tuna stocks and on the wider marine environment will be impossible to assess and fishing impacts will remain extremely difficult to control.
Greenpeace wants to change this situation. As well as documenting and recording illegal fishing vessels and destructive fishing the Esperanza and her on board team will be attending this year's Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) meeting in Mauritius in early May. This is the annual meeting of fisheries managers with responsibility for managing tuna fishing in the Indian Ocean. This means we have a perfect opportunity to send a clear message to the IOTC delegates – start managing this fishery effectively or risk destroying it!
You can find out more about the IOTC and this year's meeting here.
Greenpeace wants to see tuna fishing in the Indian Ocean managed sustainably and fairly so that the Indian Ocean is protected from the excesses of large tuna companies seeking to make quick and large profits at the expense of a healthy marine environment. We need to transform tuna fisheries in the Indian Ocean to end illegal, wasteful and destructive fishing practices by both large and small fleets and ensure that coastal states fully benefit from the fish resources that surround them, rather than place large profits in the hands of companies and countries in Europe, Asia and elsewhere.
You can keep track of the Esperanza's tour of the Indian Ocean and the work we're doing to try and push for these important changes by keeping an eye out below for new blogs and updates.