As part of the Defending our Pacific ship tour, the Esperanza cut through the deep blue Pacific waters, hot on the heels of a Taiwanese long-line fishing vessel. As soon as we were in close proximity, Greenpeace inflatable boats were launched from the Esperanza and came alongside a Taiwanese fishing vessel and displayed yellow banners reading "MARINE RESERVES NOW" in English and Chinese.
Greenpeace outside of Taiwan's Legislative Yuan.
The very next day, a few thousand kilometers away in Taiwan's capital, Taipei, another set of Greenpeace activists were also holding yellow banners. These volunteers sought to expose problems in the current budget of the government's Fisheries Agency. In the last 10 years, the Fisheries Agency has spent nearly 75% of 300 million euro to subsidize Taiwanese overfishing of the Pacific. The Fisheries Agency should not be investing taxpayers' money in destructive and irresponsible fishing that will only lead to tuna depletion. Tuna is fundamental to the Pacific region's food security and economic prosperity- millions depend on the fish as a source of protein and jobs. Wiping away the tuna will mean wiping away the future of the Pacific region's people.
Yesterday was the beginning of the Taiwan Legislative Yuan's eighth session, which is when Taiwanese legislators run through budget proposals for the next year. Greenpeace volunteers were there to remind officials that the Fisheries Agency budget must match their previous claims to support sustainable growth. Currently in the Pacific Ocean there are simply too many vessels chasing after fewer and fewer fish. The overfishing crisis is a crisis that benefits no one.
Greenpeace is calling for the creation of marine reserves (national parks at sea) in four pockets of international waters known as the Pacific Commons. Almost all purse seine fishing has been banned within the Pacific Commons, which together cover an area nearly half the size of Europe. But they remain open to long-line fishing by the large Asian fishing fleets. The benefits of marine reserves will only be felt when all fishing activities in those areas is stopped. If turned into marine reserves the Pacific Commons can act as sanctuaries where the migratory tuna can breed in safety.
Greenpeace is also demanding an end to destructive and wasteful fishing methods and a 50% reduction in overall tuna fishing effort in the region. These measures are vital to help tuna populations recover after decades of overfishing. Governments such as Taiwan, and all fishing companies must make their tuna fishing sustainable or risk losing this valuable species forever, putting the Pacific's future at risk
Greenpeace activists board a Taiwanese long-liner vessel.
Greenpeace protest against Taiwan's subsidies of the distant water fishing fleet.
And watch this video to learn more about the decline of tuna numbers in the Pacific and what we can do to combat it:
Monica Tan is based in Greenpeace's East Asia office.