Greenpeace protests against Spanish tuna ship
By Michael Perry
SYDNEY (Reuters) - Greenpeace staged a high-seas protest against a Spanish-owned tuna fishing ship in the South Pacific on Tuesday, dropping a 25 meter (75 feet) floating banner "No Fish, No Future" into its net.
Greenpeace ship Esperanza had been tailing the Albatun Ters for five days, claiming it is the biggest tuna catching vessel in the world, and on Tuesday launched a protest as the ship was fishing off the Phoenix Islands in Kiribati.
The banner was dropped into the vessel's trawling net in an attempt to stop the ship from retrieving the net and using it again, but the move failed to prevent the ship from hauling the net back in.
"Early this morning we caught it fishing inside Kiribati waters and took action," Lagi Toribau, Greenpeace Australia Pacific Oceans Campaigner on board the Esperanza, told Reuters by telephone.
Greenpeace said the Albatun Tres can net more than 3,000 tonnes of tuna in a single fishing trip -- almost double the entire annual catch of some Pacific island nations.
"Time and tuna are running out. Vessels of this size cannot be left to plunder and empty out the remaining tuna stocks and need to be taken off the water and scrapped immediately in order to address the overcapacity of the world's tuna fleets," Sari Tolvanen of Greenpeace International said in a statement.
South Pacific nations decided last week to ban licensed tuna vessels from fishing in international waters between their islands and to require them to always carry fishing observers.
The new rules will take effect from June 15, 2008.
In February, the island nation Kiribati created the world's largest protected marine reserve, a California-sized watery wilderness covering 410,500 square km (158,500 square miles), to preserve tuna spawning grounds and coral reef biodiversity.
Greenpeace said the Albatun Tres was fishing under an EU agreement with Kiribati and called on small Pacific island nations to reject approaches from other European fishing firms for more tuna fishing licenses.
Greenpeace said decades of over-exploitation has reduced some of tuna stocks in the Pacific to just 15 percent of what they once were and European fishing firms are now chasing tuna in the Pacific after tuna stocks fell in the Atlantic.
"The Albatun Tres has arrived to the Pacific from the Indian Ocean earlier this year. The Pacific tuna stocks are in decline and there simply isn't enough fish in the sea to fill the holds of these huge vessels," said Toribau.
"Adding more vessels to those already allowed to fish guarantees that there will be no fish left for the future."
Rising fuel prices will likely force Japanese fishermen to suspend some tuna fishing in the Pacific and Indian oceans, officials from Japan's main tuna fishing union said on Tuesday.
The union is considering stopping about 80 fishing boats from going to the Pacific and the India Ocean for three months or more to catch bigeye tuna and yellowfin tuna, two common and reasonably priced fish at sushi bars, union officials said.
The officials said tuna fishermen in Taiwan, China and South Korea were likely to follow suit.
Greenpeace welcomed the news that Asian tuna fishing operations may be reduced but called for a permanent reduction based on environmental grounds.
Greenpeace's Esperanza has been in the South Pacific for the last eight weeks and has staged protests against fishing fleets from Taiwan, Korea, the United States, the Philippines and Spain.
Greenpeace advocates the creation of a network of marine reserves, protecting 40 percent of the world's oceans, with regulated fishing in all other areas as the long term solution to overfishing and the recovery of our overexploited oceans.
(Additional reporting by Teruaki Ueno in Tokyo; Editing by Valerie Lee)