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Greenpeace Frees Pacific Marine Life

Greenpeace Frees Pacific Marine Life from Hooks of Taiwanese Longliner

Pacific Ocean, Saturday, May 3 2008: Today Greenpeace freed sharks, tuna, marlin and an endangered Olive Ridley turtle from the hooks of a Taiwanese longline vessel (1) fishing in the international waters of the Pacific.

The activists encountered Taiwanese longliner, the Ho Tsai Fa 18, while it was hauling tens of kilometres of fishing line. The activists asked the Captain to release all marine life hooked on the lines and painted “PIRATE?” on the hull of the ship because the vessel had a previous record of controversial landing of shark fins (2).

Pacific activist, Ana Jitoko, held banners calling for “Marine Reserves Now!” and “Taiwan Pacific Tuna Destroyer” in front of the vessel.

”The Captain refused to free the fish and marine life, so we started to do so. and also confiscated a radio beacon (3). Following this, the Captain agreed to free all marine life from the hooks himself in exchange for return of the beacon,” said Miss Jitoko.

Crew on the Greenpeace ship Esperanza also started to haul in the other end of the line. The line was kept on board and will be returned to the company owner, Tsay Jyh–Gwo in Taiwan. The Esperanza is in the Pacific to defend the pockets of international waters between Pacific Island countries as marine reserves (4) from greedy fishing fleets intent on fishing out the Pacific people’s principal resource, tuna, - the world’s favourite fish.

According to scientists, overfishing of both bigeye and yellowfin tuna is putting recently- healthy tuna stocks in jeopardy. Longlining is also killing thousands of turtles and at least a million sharks each year in the Central and Western Pacific alone - and 50 million sharks globally each year.

“We painted ‘PIRATE?’ on the side of the vessel because even registered tuna vessels like this one take advantage of loopholes between legal and illegal fishing. Authorities cannot be sure to what degree this vessel has engaged in pirate fishing activities”, said Greenpeace Lead Campaigner Lagi Toribau on board the Esperanza.

“Greenpeace confiscated the fishing gear and freed fish, sharks and the turtle because the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) - which is supposed to protect tuna and sharks from overfishing and protect endangered species - is failing to do so. If the WCPFC will not do their job and secure the future of this important marine life, then we will,” said Toribau.

The Ho Tsai Fa 18 is registered to fish for tuna in the pockets of international waters – the Pacific Commons – between Pacific Island Countries but because the WCPFC has not agreed to control and reduce the amount of fishing in this region, fishing in these unregulated areas is significantly contributing to the overfishing of key tuna stocks.

Greenpeace wants to see these biodiversity rich areas of international waters set aside as the world’s first high seas marine reserves where no fishing is allowed. After the activists freed all the catch on the lines the Captain of the Ho Tsai Fa 18 agreed to leave the area Greenpeace is defending as marine reserves. The Captain agreed to fish only inside the waters of the Pacific Island countries where they hold a valid licence and would be better controlled.

Last December, Taiwan, Korea, mainland China and Japan blocked conservation measures advocated by Pacific Island countries to protect yellowfin and bigeye tuna from overfishing. “Time is running out for tuna, turtles and sharks in the Pacific. Greenpeace wants to see the international waters of the Pacific protected as no-take marine reserves where tuna, sharks and other marine life can recover from overexploitation”, said Toribau.

The Pacific provides approximately 60 per cent of the world’s tuna and each year foreign fishing fleets rake in over US$3 billion from the sale of Pacific’s tuna to markets in Asia, Europe and the USA. Pacific nations are being ripped off only receiving 5-6 per cent of the value of the catch caught by foreign vessels in their national waters. This is because of the unfair and unsustainable agreements negotiated by foreign companies and countries for access to fish for tuna in their waters.

“Greenpeace is asking the Pacific coastal states with these unfair and unsustainable agreements to reduce and control access to their tuna by closing off these areas of international waters as marine reserves and halving the overall amount of fishing in the region. This also means that retailers around the world should stop buying tuna from unsustainable, unfair and illegal sources”, concludes Toribau.

Greenpeace advocates the creation of a network of marine reserves, protecting 40 per cent of the world's oceans, as the long-term solution to overfishing and the recovery of our overexploited oceans.

ends

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