Taking action to free bluefin tuna

Posted by jamie — 14 June 2010 at 4:08pm - Comments

The crews of the Arctic Sunrise and the Rainbow Warrior have once more come to the aid of Atlantic bluefin tuna in the Mediterranean. Although the fishing season has ended early because the quotas have been reached, there are still large cages out there filled with fish caught over the past couple of weeks. These cages are bound for tuna 'ranches', where the fish will be kept and fattened up, before being slaughtered.

Yesterday afternoon our activists again tried to free the endangered tuna from one of these cages.

Purse-seining season closes early for Mediterranean bluefin tuna

Posted by Willie — 9 June 2010 at 4:58pm - Comments

Greenpeace ships step in to stop bluefin tuna being fished to extinction © Hilton/Greenpeace

Today, or at 11.59pm tonight, to be exact, the purse-seining season for bluefin tuna in the Mediterranean is being closed. A week early.

I'm back on land now, having left the Arctic Sunrise in the Med. In London, we've had a flurry of media calls, excited by what they think is the "good news" that "bluefin fishing is being banned" in the Mediterranean.

So I thought, as well as putting the record straight with any journalists who'll listen, that I should maybe explain to everyone else what exactly is happening. And whether it is indeed "good news".

Another attempt to free bluefin tuna from fishing nets

Posted by jamie — 7 June 2010 at 5:24pm - Comments

Earlier today, the Greenpeace team in the Mediterranean made another attempt to free bluefin tuna caught by the purse-seine fishing vessels. The good news is nobody got hurt this time, but the bad news is that - despite a brilliant effort - they weren't able to release any tuna.

As you can see in the slideshow above, the Arctic Sunrise got close to a Tunisian tugboat towing a net cage, into which caught tuna are transferred and towed to a tuna 'ranch' where they're fattened up ready for slaughter. Lowering a cutting grapple from the deck of the Sunrise, activists tried to cut through the netting; meanwhile, the towing rope between the tug and the cage was cut by the crew of an inflatable.

Unfortunately, the fishing crews reacted quickly, launching their own inflatable and managing to put guards on the cage. So no bluefin tuna freed this time but the fishing season still has a week to go...

Video: what happens when grappling hook meets leg

Posted by jamie — 7 June 2010 at 1:48pm - Comments

For a taste of the violence Greenpeace activists encountered on Friday as they tried to free bluefin tuna from purse-seine fishing nets, look no further than the video below. But be warned: there are some close-up images of a serious injury which are liable to make you lose your lunch.

We just had a discussion about whether to promote this video. Other Greenpeace offices have chosen to use it (including our Turkish colleagues, hence the Turkish title) although it's quite close to the knuckle (or shin bone, to be more precise). Yet it shows not only the determination of everyone on board our two ships to put the brakes on the extinction of bluefin tuna, but also the violence and intimidation they've been confronted with. So here it is.

Taking action - and taking blows - to protect bluefin tuna

Posted by Willie — 5 June 2010 at 1:09pm - Comments

Greenpeace took action in the Mediterranean yesterday to stop some French purse-seiners catching bluefin tuna. And it's fair to say, things kicked off a bit.

At long last, the weather had calmed down and the sea had warmed, and whilst the seas here certainly are not brimming with bluefin, we knew the seiners were sniffing some potential catch. When we saw them coming together at lunchtime we raced to the scene with both the Rainbow Warrior along with the Arctic Sunrise, our not-so-secret second ship in the Mediterranean.

When we got to the scene we quickly worked out that there was a net with some fish, so we deployed immediately to set about freeing the tuna. We knew it would be complicated, there were seven fairly big purse seiners, some support vessels and a whole heap of skiffs and inflatables working with the seiners. The smaller boats were holding the net open whislt the bigger boats were circling to try and protect the catch. Meanwhile a transport cage was being towed towards the scene for the tuna to be moved into. We knew we had to act fast.

Greenpeace activist injured and boats sunk in attempt to halt bluefin tuna fishing

Posted by jamie — 4 June 2010 at 3:34pm - Comments

Activists are pulled from the sea as one of our inflatables sinks © Parsons/Greenpeace

Some disturbing news is coming in from the Mediterranean where, for the past two weeks, the Rainbow Warrior and the Arctic Sunrise have been waiting for the bluefin tuna fishing season to begin. As Willie (who's on board the Arctic Sunrise) reported earlier in the week, they've been waiting along with the fishing fleet for the bad weather to subside and the tuna to arrive.

It's been a long, frustrating wait for the crew but finally, this afternoon the waiting was over. Having found a fishing vessel - the Jean Marie Christian 6 - towing a purse-seine net, both ships launched inflatables with the intention of submerging one side of the net to free the tuna trapped within, but the crews of other fishing vessels intervened in a manner which can only be described as the direct opposite of peaceful and proportional.

One of the UK activists has been injured by (and I'm wincing as I type) a grappling hook through the leg. He's being evacuated to hospital but I'm told he'll be okay. We've also lost two inflatables which were slashed with knives then sunk when the fishing vessels ran over them.

A difficult start then but our two ships in the Med are going to keep taking action to shut down the bluefin fishing operations.

More updates soon.

With ICCAT in the driving seat, what hope is there for bluefin?

Posted by Willie — 2 June 2010 at 9:14am - Comments

There's an analogy I sometimes use to explain the problem of overfishing. 

Imagine you are in a car hurtling at full speed down a hillside towards a cliff. Your foot is fully down on the accelerator. You have four options. Keep the foot down and plunge to your certain doom. Slam on the brakes and try to stop before you reach the cliff. Take your chances and jump out of the moving car. Or take your foot off the accelerator and just hope you slow down in time. 

Applying that analogy to Atlantic bluefin tuna, what needs to happen is the brake-slamming option.

Missing: bluefin tuna, last seen heading for extinction

Posted by Willie — 26 May 2010 at 4:16pm - Comments

We're out here in the middle of the Mediterranean. But at the moment, the bluefin tuna don't seem to be here.

The fishing boats are here. The tugs and support vessels are here. The French navy ships which are monitoring/protecting the fishery are here... but the fish aren't.

Perhaps it's just not warm enough yet. Perhaps they're looking in the wrong places. Perhaps the fish are late.

The worst possible scenario for everyone is that the fish have gone.

Governments fail bluefin in Doha

Posted by Willie — 18 March 2010 at 4:13pm - Comments

The breaking news today is that governments at the CITES meeting at Doha have voted AGAINST a trade ban on Atlantic bluefin.

Words cannot express how frustrating this is. The science and scientific backing is incontrovertible. The public will and pressure is immense. The species could be  commercially extinct within just a few years.

Video: A black eye for Emma and a step forward for bluefin tuna

Posted by jossc — 24 June 2009 at 10:05am - Comments

John Hocevar, aboard the Rainbow Warrior in Malta, describes how sailors from one of the Mediterranean's largest tuna fishing companies violently attacked a female crew member trying to inspect and document their trawler's cargo. Watch the video evidence for yourself.

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