Greenpeace Exposes Tuna Pirate in the High Seas
Pacific Ocean, International — Today Greenpeace exposed an illegal 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 know to be facilitating pirate fishing around the world 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 predominantly of 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.
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 tuna stocks - 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 a 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 originate 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 and confiscated a fish aggregation device (FAD) from the water that intensifies the overfishing and also 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.
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