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Greenpeace frees abandoned pirate fish catch

Greenpeace frees abandoned pirate fish catch

Southern Ocean, Antarctica, Tuesday, 21 March 2000 – Greenpeace has discovered five kilometres of abandoned pirate fishing line bearing fish so valuable they are known as ‘white gold’ in illegal fishing circles. Crew, including five New Zealanders, on board the Greenpeace ship the Arctic Sunrise released up to 60 live toothfish to the icy waters of the Antarctic after unhooking them from the pirate’s abandoned longline.

The MV Arctic Sunrise is scouring the Southern Ocean for pirate fishers who to date have poached more than 100,000 tonnes of toothfish valued at NZ$1,000 million. Pirate fishers also hook and drown between 60,000- 100,000 seabirds in their fishing gear – including critically endangered species of albatross.

“New Zealanders cannot claim to be proud of protecting Antarctica while we stand by and watch its fish stocks being plundered for profit and seabirds pushed to the brink of extinction” says Sarah Duthie, Ocean Ecology Campaigner, Greenpeace New Zealand.

“New Zealand must take the lead in stopping the illegal plunder of the fragile Antarctic ecosystem, by calling for a moratorium on the toothfish fishery backed by an international trade ban.” says Duthie. “As a leading advocate for the conservation of Antarctica the government is in a perfect position to push other members states to adopt a moratorium at CCAMLR.”

The Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) was set up in 1982 to manage and protect Southern Ocean fisheries. It has consistently failed to stop the over-exploitation of Antarctic marine life.

“While CCAMLR’s intentions are good, in its 18-year history it has consistently failed to stop pirates from systematically destroying our last true marine wilderness,” says Denise Boyd, Greenpeace oceans campaigner onboard the Arctic Sunrise.

The latest images transmitted this morning from the MV Arctic Sunrise, show the activists recovering the “longline” fishing gear and releasing the fish – measuring up to about one metre in length and weighing an average of 12 kilos – from the many thousands of hooks attached to the line.

Stills and footage available
For further information:
Denise Boyd onboard MV Arctic Sunrise ++873 130 2577
Sarah Duthie, Greenpeace New Zealand (09) 630-6317 or 025-927-301

NOTES TO EDITORS
Scientists estimate that Patagonian Toothfish (also known as deep sea or Chilean sea bass) will be commercially extinct within two years. A valuable source of food for elephant seals and other marine mammals, the illegal pillage places the fragile Antarctic ecosystem in danger.

In its second journey to the Southern Ocean pirate fishing grounds in two years, Greenpeace has already chased one pirate vessel, the Belize- flagged and Spanish-owned Grand Prince, from the area managed by the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR). This longline is the third abandoned pirate longline found by the Greenpeace crew this year.

Fish piracy in the Southern Ocean is a classic example of the growing pirate fishing problem in world fisheries – a problem now recognised by the international community. Many of these pirate fishing vessels are flagged to notorious flag-of-convenience states such as Belize and Panama.

Check out our Southern Ocean expedition website for live updates, campaign information and photographs.

http://www.greenpeace.org/~oceans/southernoceans/expediti on2000/index.html

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