French tuna fishermen blockade the Rainbow Warrior

Feature story - 24 August, 2006
(UPDATED) The port of Marseille is refusing to let our flagship, the Rainbow Warrior, dock and some French tuna fishermen are in uproar - thanks to our work highlighting widespread overfishing and illegalities in the Mediterranean tuna industry.

A large purse seiner comes dangerously close alongside the Greenpeace flagship Rainbow Warrior.

(Jump to update.)

SinceMay, the Rainbow Warrior has been documenting the state of theMediterranean Sea, including the activities of Spanish, French,Italian, Turkish and Japanese bluefin tuna fishingvessels.

What we found is overfishing on a massivescale, and an industry that routinely ignores quotas and regulations.An estimated 45,000 tons of tuna was taken from the Mediterranean lastyear - while the legal quota is only 32,000 tons.  French,Libyan and Turkish tuna fisherman all stand accused of illegallyfishing over their quotas, and some French fisherman have even admittedas much to the media. No wonder the bluefin tuna stock here is in sucha dire state.  

As Stephan Beaucher ofGreenpeace France put it, "Leading scientists and environmental groupsagree that the blue fin tuna stock is on the verge of collapse in theMediterranean as a result of over fishing." 

The confrontation

Becausegovernments and industry won't tackle the issue, we were taking ourmessage direct to the people of France.  But the government ofMarseille and the tuna industry don't want our message heard, and aredoing everything they can to keep us from even coming intoport.

Back on June 27th, we were granted permissionto dock in Marseille, but this week that permission was revoked for"technical and security reasons" (with no furtherexplanation).  As the Rainbow Warrior approached the port,over 20 industrial fishing vessels surrounded it.  Our shipdropped anchor about a mile out. Now, we're ferrying journalists out byboat to talk to them about the sorry state of the bluefin tuna stock,and the need for marine reserves in theMediterranean.

"These fisherman may have dirtysecrets to hide," said Karli Thomas by phone from the deck of theRainbow Warrior, "But they won't let them stop us from bringing theplight of the tuna to light."

UPDATE (day 2):  Rainbow Warrior boarded andtowed

Followingan additional confrontation this morning where tuna fishermen blockadedand boarded the Rainbow Warrior as well as fire hosing its crew; ourship is now being towed out of France's 12 mile territorial zone by theFrench authorities.

"The tuna fishermen are out ofcontrol on the high seas and now they are out of control in port," saidKarli Thomas, on board the Rainbow Warrior. "These industrial tunafishermen blockading us need to take responsibility for their part inthe depleted state of the Mediterranean tuna fishery and look at thebigger picture."

"The Rainbow Warrior has broken nolaws and the source of the tension is coming from the French tunafisherman," said Mike Finken, captain of the Rainbow Warrior. "TheRainbow Warrior is capable of leaving under its own propulsion and aswe made clear yesterday it had planned to do so at 6pm today to setsail for Spain to continue Greenpeace's campaign to raise awareness ofthe threats facing the Mediterranean Sea."

Thomascontinued, "They should support our call for establishment of a networkof marine reserves to bring about a sustainable, healthy and productiveMediterranean Sea. It is in the long term interests of the environmentand all fishing communities, both in France and the rest of theMediterranean."

Rainbow Warrior crew weblog

Updates from the crew.

In French

Updates to the story in French.