North Atlantic – Greenpeace UK and Greenpeace España activists on board the Arctic Sunrise have confiscated fishing gear from two European industrial longline fishing vessels in the North Atlantic. One was operating in a Marine Protected Area. 

The activists seized 30.2km of longline, just 2.5% of the total length, including 286 hooks.[1] They released a blue shark, a near threatened species, seven swordfish and other marine life caught on the lines.[2] 

Greenpeace España oceans campaigner Maria José Caballero said from on board the Arctic Sunrise: 

“We could only confiscate a tiny proportion of the longlines, but what we found makes clear the horrors of industrial fishing. What’s the point in protecting a place if environmental destruction like this is still allowed? Protected areas like this are a perfect example of the broken status quo: protected on paper, but not on the water.”

Industrial fishing in the Marine Protected Area, the Milne Seamount Complex, makes clear the challenges in properly protecting areas in international waters.[3] Longlining is legal here, but any industrial fishing will impact the ecosystem. This lack of protection from longlining is another example of why a strong Global Ocean Treaty is needed to properly protect areas of the high seas from industrial fishing.

The longliners, from Spain, were fishing for sharks and swordfish.[4] The fishery has morphed to rely on shark bycatch to remain profitable. These vessels use longlines sometimes over a 100km long, with thousands of hooks attached.

A Greenpeace España and Greenpeace UK investigation released in July revealed shocking images of dead juvenile sharks. Read the full Hooked on Sharks investigation report and see the images in the Greenpeace Media Library.

Maria José Caballero continued: 

“The EU and its member states like Spain claim they are champions of ocean protection, while their fishing fleets cause environmental harm at sea. It’s hypocrisy on an industrial scale. We need a strong Global Ocean Treaty to be finalised this August, which changes how high seas fishing is managed, to give the oceans a chance to recover.”

Greenpeace is calling on leaders to finalise a Global Ocean Treaty at UN negotiations in August. Failure to agree on a strong treaty will make it almost impossible to deliver on 30×30: 30% of the world’s oceans fully protected by 2030. Scientists say this is the minimum required to give the oceans space to recover.


Images of the action will be available in the Greenpeace Media Library.


[1] The total length of line in the water on an average fishing day, as detailed in the Greenpeace UK and Spain report Hooked on Sharks, is 1200kms. The 30kms of longline recovered by the activists is 2.5% of this total.

[2] The activists in total found 7 swordfish, 1 blue shark, 1 sea bream, 1 barracuda and 2 long snouted lancefish. All were safely released back into the water. This was from just 2.5% of the total length of line in the water, so it provides only a tiny snapshot of the total marine life on the line at the time. Analysis of total catches of swordfish and blue sharks in the North Atlantic shows that the approximate ratio of blue shark catches compared to swordfish is 1 swordfish for every 5 blue sharks.

Greenpeace activists intercepted and confiscated the lines safely and responsibly. No fishers were endangered or put at risk during the activity. The activists hauled the longlines on board the Arctic Sunrise and will dispose of them safely on land. 

[3] OSPAR Decision 2010/1 on the Establishment of the Milne Seamount Complex Marine Protected Area 

[4] The vessel names were SEGUNDO RIBEL and SIEMPRE PERLA


James Hanson, global media, Greenpeace UK – [email protected] / +44 7801 212 994

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