November 2005: Capetown
We fitted out the Esperanza with first class technology, and
departed Capetown, South Africa, bound for the Southern Ocean to
confront the Japanese Government's whaling fleet.
Southern Ocean 2006 - and Nissui
The 2005-2006 confrontations in the Southern Ocean were dramatic
- two of our activists got flipped into the water when one of them
was caught by a harpoon line, the whaling mothership Nisshin
rammed our ship the Arctic
Sunrise, and activist Mikey Rosato became
known worldwide as the "whale rider" after clinging to a dead
whale to prevent it being hauled aboard the factory ship. On
Ocean Defenders TV we exposed the brutal death of a minke whale
that took 39 minutes and 6 rifle shots to die.
Ocean Defenders force whalers to divest
On the positive front, we (and that includes you, Ocean
Defenders!) forced the financial backers of the whaling fleet,
Japanese seafood conglomerate Nissui, to
divest their shares in the operation, effectively cancelling
any non-government support for the Japanese whaling fleet. We also
lost Nissui several valuable customers.
In January people around the world
expressed their opposition to whaling. Expedition leader Shane
Rattenbury began what we affectionately termed "the Shane-a-thon"
making many media appearances to continue the political push to end
United Nations - January 2006
While the Esperanza travelled the 7 seas we also had teams of
people working behind the scenes in the murky world of
international policy meetings, from New Zealand to New York. The
Greenpeace Oceans Policy team takes the evidence that we have
gathered at sea into the halls of the United Nations (sometimes via
a live satellite linkup from the Esperanza) and countless other
international meetings where governments gather. In January 2006
finally launched a blog to keep track of our Ocean Defenders in
Making Piracy History: West Africa (Feb - April 2006)
From Capetown the Esperanza headed to
the dangerous seas off West Africa to expose the horrific
conditions of pirate fisheries. We exposed the "
Zombie Graveyard" where Chinese fishermen are forced to live in
squalor, and exposed pirate
Korean reefers in Las Palmas. We
arrested pirates who were complicit in an industry that sees
rich western nations stealing millions of dollars worth of fish
from poor African nations, and they were eventually
fined an unprecedented amount by Spanish and Guinean
authorities and were put out of business.
Roadmap to Recovery
We launched the most accurate maps ever produced covering some
of the Earth's most precious ecological treasures at the Convention
on Biological Diversity in Brazil, outlining exactly what we mean
when we're talking about a
global network of marine reserves.
Cracking Contraptions: Azores (April - May 2006)
After the excitement of the previous
two legs, the
Azores team had a different mandate. Working with IFAW and the
University of the Azores, we used an amazing array of technological
equipment (or "Esperanza's cracking contraptions", as we came to
call them) to get unprecedented footage of sperm whales and deep
Tuna Trouble: Mediterranean (May - June 2006)
In the Mediterranean we crossed paths with our flagship the
Rainbow Warrior as we
highlighted the plight of the "kings of the ocean". We called
on the countries of the Mediterranean to protect bluefin tuna with
marine reserves in their breeding and feeding areas. Later in the
year we followed this up with representation
at The International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic
Tuna (ICCAT) meeting in Croatia, where the EU Commission failed
to agree to stop fishing during tuna's spawning season. Our
Spanish campaigner gave a unique behind the scenes look at how the
decision at ICCAT (also known by the Rainbow Warrior team as "I
Catch Crazy Amounts of Tuna") was made.
Sleepless in Smackdown: IWC (June 2006) and World Oceans
Meanwhile, the Arctic Sunrise was in St
Kitts for the International Whaling Commission (IWC) meeting,
but was denied entry. Our crew was arrested and thrown in
"Smackdown", the St Kitts Jail (you can read
Mike's entertaining blog of the entire incident). Luckily the
pro-whalers lost most of the votes but sadly won support for
the St Kitts Declaration, a statement intended to pave the way for
the resumption of commercial whaling. On June 8, Ocean Defenders
globally joined in the "Oceans World Cup", and successfully
convinced eleven countries to change their vote at the UN and
"Deep Sea Destroyers" to "Team Ocean Defenders".
Red Sea (June - July 2006)
The Esperanza continued on to Egypt to
expose the destruction caused by coastal development and
tourism, working with Egyptian NGO HEPCA. It was a historic
moment, Greenpeace's first visit to Egypt. One of our Ocean
Defenders even got chosen to be a full-time staff member.
Esperanza meets Bollywood: India (July - August 2006)
In another first, the Esperanza headed to India where we had
been campaigning on the plight of the
Olive Ridley turtles. Thousands of Ocean Defenders emailed the
Indian government calling for protection for the unique turtles. In
a star-studded event, Bollywood stars joined us onboard to speak
out about the need for the Indian government to take stronger
measures to protect India's unique marine environments, and
we launched a report outlining the key steps.
Pollution in the Philippines (August - September 2006) and ABN
The Philippines leg was one of the many
that had a twist in the middle -
the tragic 200,000 litre oil spill. The Esperanza diverted to
offer assistance to the people of the Philippines as well as
provide scientific assessment of the damage. "You have brought
hope to the people," said our campaigner on the ground, Mark Dia.
The Esperanza also led a
flotilla of protest against the Australian owned Lafayette
mine. Thanks to Ocean Defenders everywhere, the financial
backers of the mine, Dutch bank ABN AMRO, has agreed to meet with
us and other NGOs and reconsider their involvement.
We will continue working with Banktrack and other NGOs to
keep the pressure on ANZ, ABN AMRO, and other financial backers of
Pacific Piracy (September - October 2006)
The Pacific leg focused mainly on solutions for
overfishing and piracy that runs rampant in the huge 30,000km
expanse of ocean. We also discovered an exposed a
shark-finning operation, the horrific truth behind the tuna
industry, and the links between
fishing trawlers and the illegal sex trade in Kiribati which
largely targets poor young women.
Stop Pirate Fishing! - Baltic Sea (September 2006)
Once again the expedition expanded
somewhat as the
headed to the Baltic Sea to echo our calls in the Pacific:
fight pirate fishing, expose overfishing and its commercial links,
and call for a network of marine reserves. And once again there
was a twist - the "toxic death ship" Probo Koala showed up nearby
immediately diverted to ensure that it would no longer pose a
risk to the environment or people's lives. Happily, Estonian
authorities took action and launched an investigation. EU
Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas praised us for "filling the
gaps in the implementation of European law".
Meanwhile thousands of Ocean Defenders asked
Birds Eye and Iglo, major seafood brands, to stop buying
potentially illegal Baltic and Barents Sea cod. Birds Eye and
Iglo's new owners have now met with us and agreed to abide by
industry guidelines regarding the illegal Barents cod problem.
Unfortunately, they have not yet agreed to phase out the depleted
and illegal Baltic cod from their products.
Sweden is now free from Baltic cod - which the supermarkets
involved attribute directly to the pressure placed on them by
potential customers: that's you again, Ocean Defenders.
Into the Trash Vortex: Hawaii (October - November 2006)
We journeyed into the heart of the
trash vortex, an area the size of Texas in the North Pacific in
which an estimated 6 kilos of plastic for every kilo of natural
plankton, which along with other slow degrading garbage swirls
slowly around like a clock, choked with dead fish, marine mammals,
and birds who get snared.
We released a report on the issue and our scientists surveyed the
area. Ocean Defenders talked with our scientists on board and
received advice about how to reduce their own impact on the marine
A message to Iceland (October 2006)
Iceland announced they intended to conduct a commercial whale
hunt, thousands of Ocean Defenders vowed to visit Iceland if
the Icelandic government changed their mind. The media attention
in Iceland was unprecedented, with the Icelandic tourism industry
and much of the public critical of the government's decision to
back a "one-man whaling campaign".
Blame Canada! - United Nations General Assembly (November
Meanwhile the debate on bottom trawling
was heating up at the UN, and even
Sigourney Weaver spoke out to support us! Ocean Defenders had
been keenly following the issue all year. We hit the streets,
email boxes and even tv screens of UN delegates following the
release of our
Blame Canada! Animation which was featured in 31 Canadian
newspapers, had over 100,000 views on YouTube and was screened on
MTV (at their request!) Thousands of emails poured in to the
Canadian and Spanish governments. On the good side, Canada did
change its vote on bottom trawling, along with Spain. However,
Iceland blocked what could have been a progressive response and
as a result the bid for a moratorium on bottom trawling failed.
World's Aquarium - Mexico (November 2006 - December 2006)
We sailed into the Gulf of California, dubbed by Jacques
Cousteau as "
The World's Aquarium" to present a report calling for the area
to be better protected.
Crossing the Pacific (December 2006 - January 2007)
After a busy year, the crew spent Christmas on board taking the
ship to New Zealand to prepare for our final confrontation in the
Southern Ocean. Meanwhile, Ocean Defenders entertained themselves
and created a webcam flickr
group, collecting their favourite pics from the Esperanza's
live webcam and keeping the crew company from afar. New Internationalist
magazine released an issue dedicated to the "State of The
World's Oceans" and joined our call for a
global network of marine reserves.
Southern Ocean 2007 (January - February 2007)
Sometimes truth is stranger than
fiction, and this expedition to the Southern Ocean was nothing like
the last. We answered distress calls both from Sea Shepherd and
subsequently the Nisshin Maru
which suffered a fatal fire, and
offered our help to tow the crippled whaling mother ship to
port - supported by thousands of Ocean Defenders calling for
them to accept our help. We assisted the whalers with reports on
the ice conditions but stood by for peaceful protest in case they
Meanwhile we kept up the political pressure behind the scenes
and it's safe to say the Foreign Minister of
Denmark is feeling the heat as thousands of Ocean Defenders
demand that Denmark not support commercial whaling.
…To Tokyo and beyond!
And that is where the Defending Our Oceans expedition ends, but
not the campaign to Defend Our Oceans. The Esperanza
is heading to Tokyo to continue to push for an end to
commercial whaling. And around the world, our team will keep
working to create a global network of marine reserves, and for the
elimination of destructive fishing practises and illegal, unfair
you were an Ocean Defender, we’d like to thank you for truly being with
us on this amazing journey, helping us to pressure governments,
corporations, financiers, and the UN. Thank you
for leaving comments and ideas on our blog,
talking to us in the
forum, sending your artwork to Art4Oceans
and your pictures
to flickr, creating an
Ocean Defender myspace page with over 6000 "friends", visiting
the ship, volunteering your time, writing to newspapers, linking to
us from your websites and blogs, and telling your friends and
family about the crisis facing our oceans.
We hope you will join us as we continue
to Defend Our Oceans!