World's largest tuna destroyer - caught!

Feature story - 27 May, 2008
We chased it for 5 days, but as dawn broke over the Pacific this morning we finally confronted the biggest tuna fishing vessel in the world. The Spanish-owned and flagged tuna purse seiner "Albatun Tres" is known as a 'super, super seiner' and can net 3,000 tonnes of tuna in a single fishing trip. This is almost double the entire annual catch of some Pacific island countries.

The most devastatingly efficient tuna fishing vessel in the world.

We caught this monstrous tuna catcher deploying its net close to the Phoenix Islands of Kiribati and witnessed many tonnes of tuna being taken out of the Pacific. We laid a 25-metre floating banner reading "No Fish, No Future"' across the inside of the net as it was being hauled in.

We first found the Albatun Tres on May 22nd and tracked her across more than 1,000 nautical miles. Her crew must have noticed us when we came within visual range as they immediately steamed away at high speed.

We managed to catch up with them when they stopped to fish, and as they pulled in their catch we showed up in inflatable boats, a jet ski and helicopter in order to expose their plunderous activities to the world.

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. These vessels have increased their efficiency enormously in the last decade through a variety of technological innovations. While targeting skipjack tuna, these vessels also catch juvenile bigeye and yellowfin tuna, as we witnessed this morning. This bycatch is seriously threatening the already vulnerable stocks of bigeye and yellowfin tuna.

Foreign fishing nations including those of the European Union (EU) are fishing unsustainably where Pacific island countries depend on tuna for income and food. The Albatun Tres arrived in the Pacific from the Indian Ocean earlier this year. It is owned by the Spanish tuna company Albacora, which is part of OPAGAC, a powerful association of Spanish tuna boat owners, processors and traders.

No more fish at home

The Western and Central Pacific tuna fishery, the world's biggest, has been subjected to intense fishing by fleets from Asia and the United States since the 1960s. With declining tuna stocks in the Atlantic and Indian Ocean, the European Union has gained access to this Pacific fishing ground as a reciprocal benefit for giving aid to Pacific countries. With their own waters fished out, the EU and other foreign fishing fleets including Japan, Korea, Taiwan and the US, are literally sailing across the world to take vital fish and income from people whose lives depend on it.

The super seiners of OPAGAC have a questionable history in the region and some of the vessels which they currently represent were pirate fishing in the area last year. Just when the Pacific fishing fleets need to be reduced we have found evidence to show that OPAGAC is trying to expand their fishing capacity here. This group of companies has no shame and targets the poorest and most vulnerable countries in order to gain access to Pacific waters. Greenpeace is urging Pacific island countries to cease any future dealings with OPAGAC. Vessels of this size need to be taken off the water and scrapped immediately in order to address the overcapacity of the world's tuna fleets.

Our ship Esperanza has been in the region for the last eight weeks highlighting the overfishing of tuna. During this time we have taken action against fishing fleets from Taiwan, Korea, the US, the Philippines and now Spain.  At the same time, our ship Arctic Sunrise has been taking action against overfishing of tuna in the Mediterranean as well.

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