Well let me tell you, August in the district ain't got nothin' on an afternoon on deck in the South Pacific. It is hot as anything here. We've been sailing for 4 days now and we've spent most of it preparing for our tour through the South Pacific. The days are long, sometimes starting as early as 5 am for some and often going past our last meeting of the day at 7:30 p.m.
A few times a day, I catch myself staring out into the South Pacific in amazement. At night, the stars here are unbelievable, seriously it feels like you are inside of a planetarium. When my neck starts to hurt from looking up, I look down and stare at the water that is pushed out of the stern propeller of the ship. It sparkles almost as bright as the sky, the plankton shines bright with phosphorescence and every few seconds a bright globe of a jellyfish passes thorough and shines for about 10 seconds as it moves away from the ship. The sunrises and sunsets are remarkable and the water is a color between sapphires and aquamarine. We've seen dolphins, flying fish, tuna jumping, birds and my personal favorite; a little baby black tip reef shark.
But unfortunately, things in the Pacific are not as perfect as they look. Global demand for tuna, and the declines of catches in other oceans have turned the hungy eys of the world’s tuna fishing fleets to the Pacific. The Pacific Islands don’t have enough money to protect their own waters and pirate fishing is not unusual in the region. In an area where the people are dependent on the oceans for their livelihood and for their food, illegal fishing steals fish that is worth 4 times what the region earns in license fees. It’s hard to believe but the fisheries of two of the fours key tuna species in the region, bigeye and yellowfin could be facing collapse due to overfishing were pretty healthy a few years ago.
Almost a quarter of the tuna taken from the Pacific comes from international waters although the real figures are unknown. Because it is nearly impossible to monitor these waters, pirates often fish in national country waters and then claim that their catch came from international waters. They also use these areas to secretly transfer their catches to a mother ship and refuel at sea. This makes possible for them to avoid regulation of what they’ve caught and how long they have been at sea. This also means that some fishing vessels can stay out at sea for years catching tuna day and night.
So that gets to why the Esperanza is in the South Pacific. We’re here to challenge overfishing and highlight how badly the Pacific Commons need protection. We’ll take our findings to the next meeting of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (the Tuna Commission) to demand the immediate closure of these unique areas.
Take a look, the map above shows three key areas (in orange) of the international waters that Greenpeace has identified as the Pacific Commons and is demanding be protected as no take marine reserves where no fishing or extractive activities are allowed immediately.