Greenpeace catches pirate fishers in the Pacific

Calls on governments to take more proactive action in protecting depleting fish stocks

Press release - November 25, 2011
Activists from the Greenpeace ship Esperanza interrupted an illegal transhipment and demonstrated against illegal fishing in a tuna-rich area called the Pacific Commons [1]. The illegal, unregistered purse seine vessels were caught fishing and transhipping in international waters near Indonesia, an area closed by the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) [2] and the island nations’ governments to purse seine fishing due to ever depleting fish stocks.

An unnamed vessel with no flag or nationality, but manned by Filipino crew, was caught illegally transhipping its catch to another carrier vessel, the Lapu-Lapu.

"It is galling and completely unacceptable that these vessels and their owners violate efforts by the region to protect our tuna stocks, which is key to food security and economic development for many people in the region. Such operations undermine efforts to ensure tuna stocks in the Pacific recover from overfishing and also threatens the lifeline of the legitimate fishing industry including Filipino fishermen.," said Mark Dia, Philippine country representative of Greenpeace Southeast Asia.

"We call on the members of the WCPFC to take action on these vessels, prosecuting the vessel owners and blacklisting them from further fishing.  In particular the Philippines' Bureau of Fisheries (3) must support the extension of the closure of the Pacific Commons to all fishing activities if it is serious about putting an end to pirate fishing.  They must also support the ban on Fish Aggregating Devices (FADs), as well as in cooperating with other nations in the region to improve measures in enforcing marine protection," said Lagi Toribau, Greenpeace oceans campaigner on board the Esperanza.

Greenpeace is currently engaged in its "Defending Our Pacific" expedition, a campaign to stop the unsustainable plunder of Pacific tuna by ending the use of destructive fishing practices and illegal fishing, and through the creation of marine reserves in the Pacific Commons.  Activists on board the ship have also removed three illegal floating FADs found in the Pacific Commons.

With tuna stocks in other oceans now depleted, fishing fleets from Asia, USA, and Europe have turned their attention to the Pacific, the source of more than half of all tuna consumed globally.

“Pacific bigeye and yellowfin tuna stocks are in ever deepening trouble. Purse seine vessels are largely to blame due to increasing commercial proficiency in catching tuna.  Large-scale tuna purse seiners can take in two days what it would take local fishermen an entire year to catch. In addition, purse seiners use FADs that entice fish -- including already vulnerable juvenile bigeye and yellowfin tunas, sharks, turtles and other marine life  -- to a single location to be scooped up by purse seine nets,” said Mr. Toribau.

Pirate fishing is known to be particularly rampant in the high seas and areas such as the Pacific Commons, where monitoring and surveillance are difficult. It is estimated that between 21-46% of all fish caught in the Pacific is taken by pirate fishing ships such as this one (4).

“This case clearly demonstrates the urgent need to close the Pacific Commons to all fishing and ensure regional enforcement is ramped up.  In addition, seafood companies must end their complicity in this kind of crime by refusing to source tuna from the Pacific Commons,” Toribau added.

Greenpeace is campaigning for a global network of marine reserves covering 40% of the world’s oceans and for a more sustainable fishing industry. Greenpeace is working with retailers across Europe, Australia and the Americas to increase the market share of sustainably-sourced tuna.


  2. Also referred to as the Tuna Commission, WCPFC is an intergovernmental body governing fisheries in the Pacific,
  3. The Philippines government has been calling for the current closure of this high seas area to be reversed ( at the upcoming meeting of the WCPFC early next year. A Greenpeace expedition in 2008 spotted an illegal fishing in this same area by two Philippine vessels and this encounter reaffirms that IUU fishing is rife in this high seas pocket (

Photo and video available c/o AC Dimatatac, (+63 2) 3321807 loc. 108

Contact Information:

  • Keiller MacDuff, on board the Esperanza, +47 2367 7986
  • Mark Dia, Philippines Country Representative, +63 917 843 0549,
  • JP Agcaoili, GPSEA Media Campaigner, +63 917 631 2750,