"How can we break the f**king law, when there is no f**king law", the captain of the trawler called Murtosa screamed at us as we sat on the fishing net onboard his ship.
That is exactly our point. As slim as our chances are that we'll be able to protect ocean life under existing regulatory agreements and management regimes, these chances rapidly approach zero when modern day pirates are allowed to exploit loopholes.
Greenpeace has been confronting pirate fishing in the northern Atlantic in recent months, both on the Grand Banks
and in the Barents Sea
In the Barents Sea, a pristine area north of Norway
, Greenpeace is working to establish a marine reserve and to protect the world's last healthy cod population. Factory trawlers like the Murtosa
are part of a pirate fleet that the Norwegian Coast Guard estimates takes more than 100.000 tons of cod illegally each year in the Barents Sea. Check out this short video
of actions taken this week.
Our work on the Grand Banks, an area off the coast of Canada that is one of the most biologically productive in the world, highlighted the failure of the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO
) to protect deepwater corals and other fragile habitats from bottom trawling
. NAFO is perhaps most infamous for overseeing the collapse of Canada's cod fishery
in 1992. To make matters worse, today NAFO is turning a blind eye to pirate fishing vessels that are scooping up what little there is left of the spawning stock that provides the only hope for the fishery's recovery.
Over the next two months, the United Nations General Assembly will be discussing what to do about pirate fishing (known in international law circles as IUU fishing, or fishing that is illegal, unreported and unregulated). Will the UN finally impose a moratorium on high seas bottom trawling? Will they begin the process of creating high seas marine reserves? Will the US do more to protect our oceans than they did at the UN last year?
If we had a few more heros and a few less Nero
s out there, I'd be a bit more optimistic - but for now, most bureaucrats seem to be happy with their fiddles.