Greenpeace vessel attacked

Time and tuna are running out. Tempers too.

Feature story - 30 May, 2008
Three Turkish tuna fishing vessels surrounded the Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise in the Cypriot Channel, with crew from one vessel attacking the ship with lead weights. Greenpeace is in the area to call for an end to unsustainable fishing and to call for the establishment of a marine reserve between Cyprus and Turkey.

The Arctic Sunrise being pursued by Turkish purse seiner fishing vessels. Crew aboard threw lead weights, rammed the Greenpeace vessel midships, and smashed the windshield of the helicopter.

We flew over the ships early in the morning to document the activities of tuna fishing vessels.

Three Turkish vessels then surrounded the Greenpeace ship -- one colliding with the Arctic Sunrise and causing superficial damage midships on the starboard side. The tuna ship's crews then started hurling  lead fishing weights of around four centimetres at the Greenpeace ship.  Gunfire was heard. Amazingly, no one was injured but the Greenpeace helicopter was damaged and is now inoperable.

The series of dangerous maneuvers were caught on video and the Arctic Sunrise live webcam.

The Greenpeace ships Captain notified the Turkish Iskenderun Port Authority  and reported the damage.

"This unprovoked attack against the Arctic Sunrise, a peaceful protest ship, endangered the safety of our crew and ship and is completely unacceptable, we urge the ships owners to instruct their crews to return to port for an immediate investigation," said Greenpeace International Oceans campaigner Karli Thomas, on board the Artic Sunrise.

The real bad guys: governments

"We understand that these guys are angry -- we're angry too. But the real problem has been caused by the refusal of governments to take action to regulate an industry that is fishing itself to death," Said Banu Dokmecibasi, Greenpeace Mediterranean Oceans Campaigner.

Scientists from the international body which regulates tuna fishing, ICCAT, recommended a maximum sustainable catch of 15,000 tonnes of bluefin tuna, to be divided among all the countries licensed to fish in the Mediterranean. The Turkish fleet comprises more than 200 purse seiners in total, with enough catch capacity to fish the entire 15,000 tonnes. Turkey has an allocated quota of less than 900 tonnes.

We're calling on the Turkish government to support the protection of the Cypriot Channel, one of the most productive tuna breeding areas in the Eastern Mediterranean, as a marine reserve. The Turkish government should immediately revoke all permits for domestic fleets to fish in the channel.

"Marine reserves are urgently needed to protect the future of marine life, including tuna. The population of tuna is close to extinction - if we don't protect the breeding and spawning grounds now there will be no fish for the future. By protecting tuna, fishermen can protect their own future." Said Banu Dokmecibasi, Greenpeace Mediterranean Oceans Campaigner.

Greenpeace is campaigning for a global network of fully protected marine reserves covering 40 percent of our oceans as an essential way to protect our seas from the ravages of climate change, to restore the health of fish stocks, and protect ocean life from habitat destruction and collapse.  As part of this campaign, the Arctic Sunrise is currently in the Mediterranean documenting threats to the sea and promoting the designation of marine reserves. 

At the same time, our vessel Esperanza is calling for marine reserves in the Pacific.  You can add your voice to our efforts without risking seasickness or getting anything thrown at you.  

Take action

Give our oceans a chance to recover. Save one of the life support systems a warming planet needs. Join the call for a global network of marine reserves.


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