Taking 400,000 People on a Trip to the Indian Ocean

by Tom Lowe

June 6, 2016

If you've sailed with us — on deck, on land, or in spirit — thank you. You have made a huge difference to the lives of fishing communities, countless sea creatures, and helped the push towards cleaner and more just ocean industries.

Goodbye and thank you from the crew of the Esperanza and #NotJustTuna Expedition Team.

Goodbye and thank you from the crew of the Esperanza and #NotJustTuna Expedition Team.

© Will Rose / Greenpeace

It was a sunny afternoon in April when the Esperanza left port in Madagascar six weeks ago. Its mission: to hunt down Thai Union‘s destructive fishing operations in the Indian Ocean.

Perhaps because of everything achieved since then, it seems longer ago. In these past weeks we’ve hauled dozens of so-called fish aggregating devices (FADs) from the ocean — almost 100 buoys and many hundreds of meters of rope, nets and fishing lines.

We’ve paddled alongside local Malagasy fishermen and witnessed first-hand how they struggle to make a living as fish stocks come under increasing threat from industrial operations.

We’ve stopped supply vessels deploying harmful fishing gear and we’ve confronted, then chased, a reckless fishing vessel, which was evidently gathering fish with highly controversial lights, from its moorings.

Activists at sea black out controversial vessel's lights in second day of action pursuit.

Activists at sea black out controversial vessel’s lights in second day of action pursuit.

We blacked out those lamps to call “lights out” on this destructive practice. The very next day it was announced that the sort of lights the Explorer II was using to attract fish in the Indian Ocean would now be banned.

While we’ve been keeping up the pressure at sea, hundreds of thousands more people on land around the world are backing the campaign in any way they can. Activists in New Zealand shut down a Whiskas factory, that buys tuna from Thai Union. In France, still more activists shut down a Petit Navire packing factory.

Right before a major seafood industry conference in Thailand (the “Bangkok Tuna Forum”), delegates at the event saw the words ‘Thai Union: lead the change, stop ocean destruction’ laser-projected in giant lights.

25 Greenpeace activists are blocking a Petit Navire factory part of Thai Union.

25 Greenpeace activists are blocking a Petit Navire factory part of Thai Union.

In France and the UK, investigative teams have matched barcodes on tuna tins to FADs we’ve retrieved and deactivated in the Indian Ocean – and in a coordinated event, crowds cleared Thai Union tuna tins off the shelves in 135 supermarkets in France, the U.K., the United States, Canada, and Italy.

In doing all this, we’ve made it crystal clear that if tuna companies like Thai Union don’t clean up their act, we’ll make business impossible for them – and we’ve done that all along their supply chain; from point of catch to point of sale. In the U.K., Sainsburys is under pressure to take action on John West – as other retailers like Tesco and Waitrose already have. And in the U.S., we brought the message of tens of tens of thousands of concerned citizens to Walmart’s annual share holder meeting.

Greenpeace flies the A.E. Bates thermal airship at Walmart's world headquarters just two days before the company's coveted annual shareholders meeting. Greenpeace is asking Walmart to switch to sustainably sourced tuna and stop ocean destruction and human rights abuses of workers in the global tuna industry.

Greenpeace flies the A.E. Bates thermal airship at Walmart’s world headquarters before the company’s coveted annual shareholders meeting.

If you’ve sailed with us — on deck, on land or in spirit — thank you. You have made a huge difference to the lives of fishing communities, countless sea creatures and helped the push towards cleaner and more just ocean industries.

The collateral damage of destructive fishing is #NotJustTuna. This movement is not just the Esperanza. This movement is you — and the next wave is coming harder than ever.

On behalf of the whole Esperanza and Not Just Tuna team, thank you.

By Tom Lowe

Tom Lowe is a Multimedia Editor at Greenpeace International.

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