There was a mixture of excitement and anxiety during a protest activity Greenpeace did against Sajo, a Korean company inside South Korea. However, make no mistake: Sajo is no ordinary company. Sajo Industries is Korea's biggest fishing company and presumably one of the most influential in shaping the country's international fisheries policies.
That’s why, earlier this week, Greenpeace projected an animation on the wall of one of Sajo’s buildings in the port city of Busan. The animation included images of destructive Pacific tuna fishing and animations of fishing industry officials taking charge of fishing and politics.
To put this in context, Korea's industrial fishing fleet is second only to Japan in its annual catch of tuna. Korean fishing companies are hardly shining a spotlight on the plight of the Pacific and have been keeping a low profile, perhaps because Japan’s destructive fishing receives so much attention, due to the importance of tuna in the sushi culture. But the dire state of many Pacific tuna stocks means that other Asian fishing fleets, including from Korea, Taiwan, Philippines and Indonesia, have bright lights put on their roles in the declining health of the Pacific.
For weeks, the Korean Coast Guard had been keeping their eyes on what the Rainbow Warrior crew would do. They've followed the ship to every port stop and on the day of the projection, they sent three officers to the Greenpeace press conference. The officers eventually followed us to Sajo's office where an animation showing the trail of Pacific tuna destruction was being projected.
Sajo owns 7 purse seine fishing boats, 79 long-liners and two motherships operating in the Pacific. Over 94% of Korea’s total catches comes from the Pacific. If the aggressive fishing of the Pacific continues, we’ll have no fish for the future, and certainly no fishing industry. But for several years now, the Korean fishing industry has had undue influence on Korean positions at global fisheries and oceans negotiations, blocking efforts to create ways to sustainably manage Pacific tuna for the benefit of all, not just narrow industry interests.
It's time to draw a line against corporate greed, and we're drawing that line here in Korea. Now that we have an official presence here, our efforts to defend the oceans and the Pacific will only be stronger. Watch this space for more updates and don’t forget to sign the petition to create a global network of marine reserves, one way we can create healthy, living oceans!
Lagi Toribau is the oceans team leader at Greenpeace Australia Pacific, based in Suva, Fiji.