Pirate fishing: giving us pirates a bad name

by John Hocevar

September 19, 2006

Ahoy, Mateys! 

I’ve been called in to shore to honor Talk Like a Pirate Day.  While this naturally offends my delicate sensibilities – what’s next?  Walk Like an Egyptian Day?!? – a few days on dry land will give me a chance to lollygag like a landlubber: practicing my hook shot, watching sea-span, and scrubbing the barnacles out of my beard.  And, as it happens, the old captain has a lot on his mind.  (Pirates have a fondness for referring to our good selves in the third person.  Beats talking to the parrot.)

There’s a pack of scalawags out there giving us pirates a bad name.  I’m talking about the swabs behind pirate fishing, of course!  These guys are raping and pillaging the oceans for a few pieces of eight – it’s practically aaarrrrrmageddon out there!  Check out our Pirates Hall of Fame.  Here are a few of the worst offenders:

1. The Japanese tuna fleet (may they be infested by termites).  As blue fin tuna populations plummet worldwide, the truth has just come out that Japan has been taking about three times their allowed quota and covering it up, stealing $2 billion worth of fish.  That’s a lot of doubloons.   

2. Cod Pirates of the Atlantic (may they be devoured by the kraken).  Once the largest fishery in the world, Atlantic cod stocks have crashed from Newfoundland to the North Sea.  To make matters worse, the chances for recovery of the once mighty cod are dimming thanks to pirates operating in the Barents and Baltic Seas.  Tell Unilever to do their part to keep pirate booty out of your supermarket. 

3. Southern Ocean Toothfish Pirates (may they meet Davey Jones at his locker).  While the Marine Stewardship Council may have certified a small piece of the Patagonian toothfish fishery as sustainable, rampant pirate fishing continues to plague the species, also known as Chilean seabass.  Some governments have been starting to crack down on these scurvy dogs (you might have heard about Australia chasing a Uruguayan flagged ship for nearly 4,000 miles), but there are still too many pirates and too few fish. 

But before you start demanding that all pirates be forced to walk the plank, let me say one word in defense of my fellow sea rats.  Too often the poor souls aboard the pirate fishing vessels risk life and limb on poorly maintained, rusting shipwrecks waiting to happen.  These fishermen are often just a step above slaves, working in dangerous conditions for practically nothing.  The real scoundrels are usually far away, in oak-paneled boardrooms hidden behind layers and layers of bureaucracy.  But it takes a pirate to find a pirate, so we’ll track them down for sure.  Besides, I’ve got a secret map, see…

So weigh anchor and raise the sails, we’re going after ‘em!


– John Hocevar

Pirate at Large

John Hocevar

By John Hocevar

An accomplished campaigner, explorer, and marine biologist, John has helped win several major victories for marine conservation since becoming the director of Greenpeace's oceans campaign in 2004.

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