Greenpeace fights to protect the Pacific Commons

Feature story - April 18, 2008
Greenpeace activists were on international waters to bear witness to fishing practices that are threatening to drive the tuna fisheries in the South Pacific to near collapse. In just one day of patrolling international waters, activists witnessed both a purse seiner and a FAD (Fish Aggregation Device), both of distant origin.

Activists demonstrated against tuna fishing operations in the international waters of the Pacific by deploying a banner reading "Marine Reserves Now" near the bow of a Korean purse seiner. A Greenpeace translator demanded the vessel immediately leave the area that Greenpeace is defending as a no-take marine reserve. The fishing vessel the Olympus is owned by Korea's largest tuna company, Dongwon Industries Co. Ltd, a significant global player in the tuna industry. In 2006, Greenpeace together with Kiribati fisheries inspectors boarded another Dongwon owned vessel, Dongwon 117, which fled Kiribati waters after Greenpeace discovered discrepancies in its documentation and reporting.

Something Fishy

Today, as the activists returned to the Esperanza, they confiscated a fish aggregation device (FAD) used by purse seiners that attracts tuna and intensifies overfishing. The FAD was documented by a team of Greenpeace divers and then confiscated by the Esperanza. Purse seine vessels surround schools of fish with curtain-like nets to catch tuna. A rope along the bottom of the net is pulled like a drawstring and the whole catch is hauled onboard. The FADs, which are often made of netting, buoys, and scrap materials, are affixed with satellite or radio transmitters that tell them when they have found the tuna so they can catch them all - along with other marine life attracted to the FADs.

"Greenpeace took action against this tuna fishing operation because the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission, which is supposed to be managing the fishery and protecting the tuna, is failing to do its job," said Greenpeace Australia Pacific campaigner Lagi Toribau on board the Esperanza. "Both time and tuna are running out. These areas of international waters need to be protected urgently as no-take marine reserves so that the tuna stocks and all other marine life can seek sanctuary within them and recover from overexploitation."

International fleets set their sites on world's last remaining abundant tuna stocks The Pacific supplies about 60 percent of the world's tuna and each year foreign fishing fleets rake in over US$3 billion from the sale of Pacific's tuna to markets in Japan, Europe and the USA. Pacific nations are being cheated, only receiving 5-6 percent of the value of the catch caught by foreign vessels in their national waters. This is because of the unfair and unsustainable agreements negotiated by foreign companies and countries for access to fish for tuna in their waters.

Pacific Island countries have made numerous calls for these areas to become marine reserves. Greenpeace has joined the fight to protect the Pacific Commons. The Esperanza is in the Pacific now to defend the international waters between Pacific Island Countries as marine reserves.

Take Action

A network of marine reserves, protecting 40 per cent of the world's oceans, is the long term solution to overfishing and the best hope for recovery of our overexploited oceans.