Greenpeace Exposes Tuna Pirate in the High Seas
Ocean, Friday 9 May 2008: Today Greenpeace exposed an
tuna purse seiner, the Queen Evelyn 168, in a pocket of international
waters between Papua New Guinea and the Federated States of Micronesia.
This Philippines-flagged vessel was at the site of a transfer of tuna
between her sister vessel and a refrigerated mothership, the Kenken 888.
It is likely that a transfer of fish at sea involving an illegal vessel
was about to occur, but the arrival of Greenpeace prevented it from
taking place as the vessels immediately separated and fled.
"Transfers of fish at sea are well known to be
fishing around the world and now we also have the proof of this in the
Pacific. It is unacceptable that this is still allowed to continue",
said Greenpeace Australia Pacific campaigner Lagi Toribau on board the
Esperanza. "The pockets of international waters between Pacific island
countries are especially prone to pirate activities and should be closed
down to all fishing. Transfers of fish should only be allowed to happen
in port so they can be monitored properly."
The Queen Evelyn 168 is not
authorised to undertake any fishing
activities in this part of the Pacific. All vessels were registered to
the Philippines. The Queen Evelyn 889 and the Kenken 888 have legal
permission to operate in this area. However, Greenpeace is demanding
that tuna transfers happen only in port, where the amount of the catch
can be accurately monitored. "At-sea transfers result in massive
underestimation of the Pacific tuna catch. For years tuna have
disappeared unreported on motherships like this. The Western and Central
Pacific Fisheries Commission - which is supposed to protect tuna from
overfishing - is clearly failing to do so. The only hope for Pacific
tuna fisheries and the tuna themselves is to close the Pacific Commons
to all fishing as marine reserves and to ban all transfer of fish at
sea," said Toribau.
Last week, a report was released (1) that
estimates that on top of the
known fish catch, at least another 34% is stolen by pirates in the
Western and Central Pacific.
Greenpeace activists were later able to
board the mothership with the
permission of the ship's Captain and documented the contents of the hold
which predominantly contained juvenile yellowfin and skipjack tuna.
Activists obtained information from the Captain about six other
transfers of tuna he had done over the last month in the same pocket of
international waters. These transfers alone added up to 675 tonnes of
skipjack and yellowfin tuna onboard and were mainly from boats flagged
to the Philippines belonging to the same company, TPS Marine Industries.
The Greenpeace ship,
Esperanza, is in the Pacific for the fifth week to
defend the pockets of international waters between Pacific Island
countries – the Pacific Commons - as marine reserves (2) from greedy
fishing fleets intent on fishing out the world's last stocks of tuna,
the world's favourite fish. These motherships, known as 'reefers' are a
gateway for laundering tuna out of the region.
"Scientists have been warning for years that
bigeye and yellowfin tuna
are suffering from overfishing. This takes on a whole new light when you
realise that secret catches haven't been included in the situation.
Bigeye and yellowfin tuna are most probably in worse trouble than
scientists have predicted," continued Toribau. "We need to act now and
cut the fishing effort by half within the waters of Pacific island
countries to save these fisheries."
60% of tuna eaten
globally each year comes from the Pacific heading
mostly to markets in Japan, the European Union and United States.
"We cannot allow the fishing industry to destroy
the last tuna stocks.
Greenpeace is asking supermarket retailers across the world to stop
selling unsustainable tuna products such as bluefin, bigeye and
yellowfin which are now threatened in all oceans. Retailers must act as
gatekeepers, ensuring that fish sold on their shelves is not caught by
pirates or originates from vessels that have transferred catch at sea.
Otherwise consumers could be complicit in purchasing stolen goods from
the Pacific or elsewhere," said Sari Tolvanen of Greenpeace International.
In the last month Greenpeace has taken
action against overfishing by
Korean, Taiwanese and US boats. Activists also confiscated a fish
aggregation device (FAD) from the water that intensifies the overfishing
and freed marine life from the hooks of a long-liner.
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.