Less than six months after sailing through the Indian Ocean last year, Greenpeace has returned to the region to help end overfishing and create sustainable tuna fisheries that bring real economic benefits to coastal communities.
The Greenpeace ship 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.
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.
Fishing vessels from wealthier distant nations such as France, Spain, Taiwan, Korea, China, Japan and elsewhere take close to 50% of the tuna catch, using destructive fishing techniques such as purse seines with Fish Aggregating Devices (FADs).
This type of fishing results in a high level of bycatch of sharks, rays, turtles, whales and dolphins and juvenile tuna. Long-line fishing, also common in the Indian Ocean, has similar problems and is in need of urgent reform.
Compounding the overfishing problem, regional coastal states are investing more and more in expanding their own fishing fleets. But the catches from these fleets are poorly documented and it is not clear how many boats are targeting tuna in the region.
All tuna species in the Indian Ocean region are showing signs of decline as fishing powers have failed to agree to limit the size of their fleets. Regional management needs to be significantly improved if the region is have sustainable fishing in the future.
Globally, there is 2.5 times more fishing capacity in the world than there are fish. In the Indian Ocean in particular, there is a small window of opportunity to make changes and prevent some of the excessive overfishing that has taken place elsewhere.
This is why the Esperanza and her on board team will attend this year’s Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) meeting in Mauritius in May. There we will send a clear message to IOTC delegates – start managing this fishery effectively or risk destroying it!
You can keep track of the Esperanza's tour of the Indian Ocean here.