Ahoy me hearties, gather your shipmates and swash your buckles ‘cause today be International Talk like a Pirate Day! A day when landlubbers around the globe can be heard uttering “aaars”, growls, mutters, and scowls, with true pirate swagger. It’s probably the only day of the year you can get away with calling your boss a scurvy bilge rat.
When we think of pirates we think of days gone by, of ships hoisting sail, cannonballs and buried treasure. I also like to think of Johnny Depp…. But pirates are more real than you may think…
Our Greenpeace ships, which spend most of the year sailing the seas to defend our oceans, sometimes find themselves in areas impacted by pirates. When we sail through high-risk areas, in places like east Africa and the Malacca Strait near Singapore, we have to take measures to protect our own ship from piracy attacks too. We put extra people on night watch, and keep constant look out to ensure the safety of the ship and crew. Piracy today is still a real threat, and one that our ship’s crews have to take very seriously.
But there’s another type of pirate that’ll also shiver yer timbers an' chill ye to th' bone. These pirates aren’t after golden pieces of eight – but their stolen treasure is every bit as precious. Scouring the oceans, stealing food from communities that need it- modern day fishing pirates are a far cry from the glamour of Hollywood movies. They’re a multi-billion dollar scourge on the seas, and one that we’re fighting a battle against. From West Africa to the islands of the South Pacific, illegally operating pirate fishermen are netting as much as £16.1bn ($23.5bn) worth of fish and taking about one-fifth of the global reported fish catch. And it’s communities in poor and developing countries that really suffer due to this illegal fishing.
These fishing scoundrels don’t fly the skull and cross bones – they hide their identity and origin, ignore the rules and often fly the flags of countries that turn a blind eye to their illegal fishing. With the click of a computer mouse, for as little as US$500, flags can be bought over the internet from countries like Malta, Panama, and Belize.
The high seas, being international waters, belong to no one and everyone. However there are those that would have all the ocean’s bounty for themselves. Illegal Pirate fishers, greedy fishing companies and many big corporations are out to take what they can. What is unbelievable is that in the 21st century there’s no global mechanism to provide ocean sanctuaries, areas that would be free not only from fishing but from other threats such as oil drilling and the new threat of deep seabed mining. With only 1% of the high seas protected, the ocean’s true ancient mariners, like the leatherback turtle, have nowhere to find sanctuary. If this plunder of the seven seas is to be stopped the world’s governments must reach a global agreement to protect the high seas and ensure healthy oceans and secure resources.
Avast! Drop your grog, whistle your parrot(fish) and join the epic battle for our oceans. Stand tall, me hearties, and be counted!
We’re defending the oceans all over the world, and there’s always something you can do to help. Right now, you can #jointhewatch for the seas that will really shiver your timbers - in Antarctica.
Alicia Craw is an Oceans Campaigner at Greenpeace UK.