How We're Defending the Oceans

Standard Page - 2010-12-02
The Greenpeace Defending our Oceans campaign sets out to protect and preserve our oceans now and for the future. We are campaigning for greater regulation of fishing fleets from the East Asia region, the creation of Pacific marine reserves and a reduction of catch quotas.

The Greenpeace Defending our Oceans campaign sets out to protect and preserve our oceans now and for the future. We are campaigning for greater regulation of fishing fleets from the East Asia region, the creation of Pacific marine reserves and a reduction of catch quotas.

We are working towards the establishment of marine reserves to protect swathes of the global oceans from exploitation and human pressure. Marine reserves are the ocean equivalent of national parks. They are a scientifically developed and endorsed approach to redressing the crisis in our oceans.

More than 100 hundred volunteers participate in a Greenpeace-organized human art activity. They compose the words "Marine Reserves Now" in Chinese on Baisha beach, Kenting National Park, Taiwan.

Beyond marine reserves, we are also calling for stronger regulations for the fishing industry, so that fish can be harvested in a sustainable way, with minimal impact to the marine environment. We are campaigning, for example, for an end to the most destructive practices of fishing, such as bottom trawling.

Here are some of our goals:

  1. Push the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) to close all four Pacific high seas enclaves to fishing, dumping and mining and turn them into marine reserves.
  2. Ban the use of Fish Aggregating Devices (FADs), which kill thousands of turtles, sharks, skates and rays and immature tuna species.
  3. Push the WCPFC to decrease the tuna catch. This is in line with the precautionary approach and accounts for the high levels of uncertainties in fishing data due to the rampant illegal, unreported and unregulated pirated fishing in the region.
  4. Push for a ban on all at-sea transfers. Transfers of fish often take place between pirate fishers and refrigerated factory ships that help to smuggle the illegally caught fish out of the Pacific. The illegal transfer of fish is thought to be rampant in the Pacific, where it was first documented by Greenpeace in 2008.

An activist frees an endangered Olive Ridley turtle from a hook of the controversial Taiwanese longliner Ho Tsai Fa 18. The captain of the fishing vessel refused to free all marine life from the line as asked by Greenpeace so activists started cutting sharks, tuna, marlin and a turtle free.

In Taiwan, we have been working to expose the role of Taiwan’s fishing fleet – especially their ships that fly “flags of convenience” – in depleting the Pacific tuna fisheries. We are pushing for the Taiwan Fisheries Agency to establish stronger regulations and support the above three proposals.

Defending the Pacific

In January 2011, our flagship the Rainbow Warrior visited Taiwan on the Defending our Pacific tour. Greenpeace campaigners exposed the Lung Yuin, a refrigerated factory ship, for suspected illegal practices. Greenpeace temporarily blocked the ship from leaving as it was setting out for the Pacific, and called upon the Taiwan Fisheries Agency to investigate the ship.

The Lung Yuin is one of Taiwan’s many ships flying ‘flags of convenience’ – in this case, the Taiwanese-owned ship is registered under the flag of Vanuatu to avoid regulations. Despite regulations that require flag of convenience ships to register in Taiwan, the Lung Yuin has not done so. In September 2010, Greenpeace presented evidence of the Lung Yuin’s failure to register to the Taiwan Fisheries Agency.

A Greenpeace activist chains himself to MV Lung Yuin's anchor chain with a banner reading "FA, Investigate Now.”

The Lung Yuin had also been previously apprehended in Japan for illegal fishing in 2004, and has faced allegations of onboard human rights abuses in recent years.

Taiwan’s long-line fishing ships rely on refrigerated ships like the Long Yuin to transfer and store their catch. This practice enables the massive long-line fleet to continue illegal and unregulated overfishing of bluefin and yellowfin tuna.

The Lung Yuin’s owners, Taiwanese Lungsoon Group has a fleet of thirteen tuna long-line fishing vessels, and frequently delivers frozen tuna to Japan’s lucrative sashimi market. It also provides albacore tuna to the US-tinned tuna brands Bumble Bee, Chicken of the Sea and Starkist.

The Defending our Pacific tour also highlighted the urgent need to protect ocean life in the Pacific from destructive industrial fishing and create marine reserves. Greenpeace East Asia joined with local Taiwanese groups to call attention to the plight of our last tuna stocks and urge the Taiwanese government to support efforts to defend our oceans and better regulate its tuna fleet.

Flags of Convenience

In 2010, we published The Inconvenient Truth of Taiwan’s Flags of Convenience, which identified hundreds of Taiwanese-owned and/or operated fishing vessels that are registered in foreign countries and thus evade regulation from Taiwan’s Fisheries Agency (FA). The report also exposes shortcomings and loopholes in the FA’s distant-water fishery management policies. After a year of investigation, research, and lobbying work, we successfully pushed Taiwan to soften its attitude on the closure of high seas pockets in the Pacific Ocean at the annual meeting of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission in December 2010 in Hawaii.

Our public engagement activity in Taiwan, “The Last Tuna,” motivated over 10,000 people over two months to sign a petition asking the fishing industry to support the establishment of an international marine reserve in the Pacific Ocean, as well as other conservation solutions.

Documenting the Pacific Fishing Crisis

Greenpeace has been documenting and exposing the overfishing crisis facing the Pacific.

Spotting illegal fishing on the high seas can be like finding a needle in a haystack. Yet in September 2009, within three weeks of being in the international waters of the western Pacific, the Greenpeace ship Esperanza:

  • Discovered FADs (fish aggregating devices that fatally attract fish), despite current bans on their use
  • Documented illegal transhipments at sea
  • Confiscated long-lines
  • Rescued by-catch such as stingrays
  • Escorted several illegal vessels out of the high seas

Activists in an inflatable from the Esperanza approach a Taiwanese longliner

For a look at our most recent oceans work, check out the news section.