The new year has started with a big bang for Greenpeace and the oceans over here in East Asia and the Pacific. There's a pile of coinciding historical events including the 40th anniversary of Greenpeace, the final voyage of the Rainbow Warrior II and a major victory for Pacific Ocean conservation. And at the same time - I've been celebrating my own personal "historic event" - my birthday!
As the year changed we cheered for our first year of campaigning in East Asia at our office here in Taiwan with our new and motivated staff - ready to rise up to the big environmental challenges here and the East Asia region.
This is a critical battleground for our fight to defend the oceans from overfishing as Taiwanese fleets - together with fleets from Korean, Japan and mainland China - operate the majority of the world’s industrial fishing fleets, plundering the oceans of fish and biodiversity at an alarming and increasing rate across all the oceans. Taiwan especially has a large and poorly regulated tuna fishing fleet in the adjacent Pacific ocean where legal and illegal overfishing are now depleting the region’s once abundant tuna stocks along with other marine life such as sharks and turtles.
But I can report some good progress! On New Year’s Day I also got to wash my birthday bubbly down with the sweet knowledge that a total of 4.5 million km2 of biodiversity rich Pacific Ocean was closed to purse seine fishing that day. This is a truly historical move by the region and one that Greenpeace has been campaigning on for quite some years. If this legislation is properly implemented and respected by all the fishing nations it can, together with other conservation measures, bring real hope to tackling the overfishing crisis in the region and set a global example of much needed sustainable fisheries management.
We welcomed our legendary flagship the Rainbow Warrior and her crew into Taiwan the day after New Year. A traditional lion dance and drums were beating as she slipped into the key side in Keelung and I had to fight my emotions as I watched her come in. Greenpeace staff, like thousands of other people in the world who come to contact with them, become very attached to our ships. I have so many memories of campaigning, friendships, hardships and victories associated with them. Our ships truly help shape the future of our planet as well as our personal lives.
The Rainbow Warrior is here to start its East Asia Oceans Defenders Voyage which will take her to Hong Kong as well as Korea over the coming months. This is the beginning of the last voyage of the old lady. She is now 52 years old and has been campaigning for a safer, cleaner and more sustainable world with us for 24 action packed years. It is time to retire her and replace her with a new ship that will also carry the name Rainbow Warrior.
Over the coming month she will help us spread the message here in Taiwan and the region - that further action is needed out in the Pacific to make sure the 4.5 million km2 protected area is complimented with further conservation measures. Together with other fishing powers - Taiwan needs to reduce its fishing fleets to sustainable levels, stop the use of wasteful fish aggregation devices in purse seine fisheries. The fishing closures in the international waters of the Central and Wastern Pacific also need to include bans on long-line fishing so that these areas are fully protected marine reserves.
So with all these historical events coinciding here in Taiwan and the strengthening of our campaigns in East Asia - I have a heart filled with hope for the future of our oceans and a successful 2011. Join us as an ocean defender (if in Taiwan) or take the pledge to create more marine reserves. Further blogs by the team on board the Warrior and news will be posted (here).
Sari Tolvanen is the international coordinator of our global campaign to Defend the Pacific Ocean. She is from Finland and based at our International office in Amsterdam when not on board Greenpeace ships (or underwater).