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Greenpeace fights tuna trawler

Published: 4:05PM Tuesday September 15, 2009 Source: AAP

  • Commercial fishing boat (Source: ONE News)
    Commercial fishing boat - Source: ONE News

A fresh fishing battle has broken out in the Pacific, with Greenpeace forcing a Korean trawler to move out of international waters proposed as a future marine reserve.
The Greenpeace ship Esperanza confiscated fishing gear off the vessel MFV Oryong 717 and refused to give it back until the boat agreed to move into the waters off Kiribati, where it has a licence to fish.
The environmental organisation is on a mission to protect rapidly depleting stocks of bigeye and yellowfin tuna, which are being increasingly fished by vessels from the US, Europe and Asia.
In May, Pacific countries proposed that all pockets of international waters located in between their economic zones be closed to fishing activities to allow stocks to rebuild.
Josua Turaganivalu, Greenpeace's oceans campaigner on board the Esperanza, said this was a warning to vessels to steer clear of these zones.
"All countries must respect the wishes of Pacific nations to close these areas and protect tuna - their lifeline," Turaganivalu said.
In the case of the Oryong 717, activists removed a hook from the mouth of a stingray that had been snared as bycatch, and retrieved a section of lines and hooks left behind by the vessel.
They also confiscated fishing equipment until the fishermen agreed to be escorted to approved waters.
More than half the world's tuna is caught in the Pacific, with the vast majority taken by distant fishing nations.
Despite agreements to reduce tuna catches to combat over-fishing, an estimated 2,426,195 metric tonnes of tuna was caught in the Pacific in 2008, the highest annual catch on record, Greenpeace says.
Longliners like the Oryong 717 target bigeye and yellowfin tuna, most destined for luxury sashimi markets.
Greenpeace says its Pacific tour has already confiscated several banned fish aggregating devices and exposed the illegal fishing activities of a Japanese vessel and two Taiwanese longline boats.
The Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency also carried out a coordinated maritime surveillance operation in which 21 vessels were boarded and several fines meted.