U.S. Purse Seiner Confronted

by Jessica Miller

April 19, 2008


At 8:30 this morning, I stood on the deck of the Esperanza staring out at a ship in the distance. We had spotted a fishing vessel in international waters and had sent a team to see if they were actually fishing. As the information came in, we learned that it was a purse seiner from the U.S. and it just started to pull in the net. Purse seine vessels surround schools of fish with curtain-like nets to catch tuna. A rope along the bottom of the net is pulled like a drawstring and the whole catch is hauled onboard. A purse seine net can be over one hundred meters long and catch up to 3000 tons of fish in one trip.

We launched the boats immediately and set off towards the U.S. vessel, Cape Finisterre, to give them the same message we had given the Korean fishing vessel, Olympus just a few days earlier. It’s time for international commercial fishing vessels to stop overfishing the Pacific Commons. As we approached, I could see the net being pulled in and loaded on the deck of the ship, it looked massive.

Henry and I, both from activists from the U.S., deployed a banner demanding “Pacific Marine Reserves Now!” as Lagi, our oceans campaigner from Fiji delivered the message via radio to the U.S. purse seiner Captain. The Cape Finisterre continued to pull in their net and reload their skiff (a small boat used to set and retrieve the net when fishing with a purse seine) and seemed to go about their business. We learned over the radio that the vessel would not be leaving the Pacific Commons. Alain, our boat driver moved the boat closer to the Cape Finisterre and Henry and I painted the side of the vessel with the words “Tuna overkill.”

I looked at the hull of the Cape Finisterre with mixed emotions. I was embarrassed because every country that fishes in this region has the scientific data that shows that bigeye and yellowfin tuna are in trouble and they chose to ignore the warnings – including the U.S.. And I felt proud to be here with Greenpeace taking action against overfishing in the Pacific Commons. It’s time for the Cape Finisterre and other ships like it know that the world is watching. We will not let their destruction the tuna population of the Pacific Commons go unreported.

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