Making Piracy History

Feature story - 27 February, 2006
Armed and masked, scouring the oceans, stealing food from hungry families – modern day pirates are a far cry from the glamour of Hollywood movies. But they are a multi billion-dollar reality for many communities that can least afford to be robbed. The Esperanza sets out to foil the pirates.

Illegal longliner with it's crew standing on deck wearing balaclavas to cover their identity, the crew are attempting to fish illegally in Southern Ocean.

After spending 70 days at sea confronting the whaling fleets in theSouthern Ocean, the Esperanza is setting sail for the Atlantic - thistime to expose the modern day pirates who steal fish from the poorestnations and leave a trail of environmental destruction in their wake.

Stolen fish, stolen futures

Could that fish on your dinner plate be stolen? On this next leg of ouryear-long expedition, we are working with the Environmental JusticeFoundation. Together we are are demanding that governments close portsto ban pirates, deny them access to markets and prosecute the companiessupporting them. In the Atlantic Ocean alone, pirate vessels cash in onthe lucrative market for tuna, taking thousands of tons of fish, incomplete contravention of international regulations. The fish are thentransferred to refrigerated cargo ships, known as reefers, "laundered"through legal ports and sold on into the market. And it's not just tuna- the problem is in every ocean and with almost every type of fish.

Behind the mask

You can always spot the swashbuckling pirates of old movies andchildren's books - they fly the black "skull and crossbones" flag fromtheir mast. But these days, pirates might fly no flag at all, and evenif they do, it is quite possibly bought over the internet for as littleas US$500. These flags represent countries which don't investigate themanner or scale of pirate fishing - or the working conditions of thepeople on board. 


A hidden crime

The impact on fish stocks is matched by the devastation of other marinelife. Reeling out lines sometimes 100 km long with tens of thousands ofbaited hooks, the pirates also snare thousands of turtles, hundreds ofthousands of seabirds and even more sharks - many of which arede-finned and thrown back into the sea to die a cruel death. 

A little less conversation, a little more action

Five years ago governments agreed an International Plan of Action onpirate fishing - but it seems not much has changed.The Esperanza sails to the Atlantic just days before theheroically-named High Seas Task Force meets to announce how it plans tofurther discuss the problem of pirate fishing. We plan to show themjust how urgent the need for action is, and how much we need a taskforce defending our oceans.

Greenpeace and the Environmental Justice Foundation are workingtogether to expose the pirate fishing fleets that operate withoutsanction across the globe. Together the international environment andhuman rights organisations are demanding that governments close portsto ban pirates, deny them access to markets and prosecute companiessupporting them.

Become an Ocean Defender

Become an Ocean Defender now and help end piracy!