Defending Pacific tuna: on the trail of FADs and pirates

Posted by jossc — 3 September 2009 at 10:29am - Comments

It's only a couple of days since the Esperanza set out on the Defending Our Pacific Tour, but already the crew are deeply engaged in the fight to save Pacific tuna from decimation.

Tuna are the main target of industrial fishing fleets from Asia, USA and the EU. Between them they took over 2.5 million tonnes last year alone - a totally unsustainable amount. And the indiscriminate nature of their fishing methods means that thousands of sharks and turtles also die needlessly in their nets.

One of the biggest threats to tuna stocks is pirate fishing, and yesterday the Espy's helicopter team spotted two Taiwanese longliners, the Her Hae and the Jia Yu Fa, illegally transferring tuna and shark fins in a pocket of international waters between Papua New Guinea and the Federated States of Micronesia - an area proposed as a marine reserve.

Once they realised that they'd been spotted they immediately abandoned the transhipment and tried to flee the area, but the Esperanza caught up with one of the vessels, the Jia Yu Fa, and peacefully escorted it back the waters of the Federated States of Micronesia where it is legally licensed to fish. Both vessels have been reported to the relevant authorities, who've also been given video and photographic documentation of the illegal transshipment.

A day earlier the crew confiscated an illegal fish aggregating device (FAD), which they found floating in international waters close to Papua New Guinea. FADs, which like this one often consist of tree trunks and vegetation bound together, are used to attract tuna which (for reasons as yet still unclear) love to congregate beneath them.

No fish no future

Drifting FADs are often used for indiscriminate fishing in the Pacific, where they also attract a host of other species including turtles, sharks and juvenile tuna - which are also scooped up and killed by the industrial fleets' vast trawl nets.

Their influence is so damaging that a two-month ban is currently in place on their use in waters spanning the Western and Central Pacific Ocean, where key tuna stocks are threatened with collapse.

This particular example was hauled aboard Esperanza (after a brief delay to take the photo seen at left) to be safely disposed of on land at a later date.

So, all in all it's been a very positive start to the tour.

Check our Making Waves weblog for more tour updates »

About Joss

Bass player and backing vox in the four piece beat combo that is the UK Greenpeace Web Experience. In my 6 years here I've worked on almost every campaign and been fascinated by them all to varying degrees. Just now I'm working on Peace and Oceans - which means getting rid of our Trident nuclear weapons system and creating large marine reserves so that marine life can get some protection from overfishing.

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