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Greenpeace ship at Keelung to promote marine conservation
By Cherice Chen
Taiwan News, Staff Writer
2012-03-30 04:29 PM
The Esperanza, one of the three Greenpeace’s flagships, is now docked at Keelung Harbor in northern Taiwan. The 72-meter-long ship will be open to the public from today to April 2 to help raise awareness of issues in marine conservation.

The Amsterdam-based environmental group, which is active in more than 40 countries around the world, campaigns on a wide variety of environmental issues such as climate change, chemicals, forests and oceans.

Currently on a tour to advocate sustainable fishing methods, the Esperanza’s crew is urging people in Taiwan to support fishery protection in the West and Central Pacific Ocean area. Taiwan is the largest deep-sea fishing power in this region, accounting for 30% of all fishing vessels, according to Yen Ning, the Oceans Campaigner in Greenpeace’s Taipei office, who traveled with the ship from Kaohsiung Harbor, its first stop in Taiwan.

Greenpeace has expressed its hopes that Taiwan’s government would add its voice to the call for more aggressive fishing regulations at the 8th Regular Session of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commissions (WCPFC) in Guam which concluded Friday.

A report on the session has yet to be released, but Greenpeace, as an observer at the meeting, is calling for the 26-member commission to support the closure of four high-seas areas in the West and Central Pacific to create conservation zones, ban destructive fishing methods and reduce big-eye tuna catches, Yen said.

The four high-seas areas in the West and Central Pacific often see many cases of illegal fishing and transshipments, while the capacity for monitoring and surveillance is very limited.

The decrease in the number of tuna is especially worrisome because the species is highly migratory and thus needs international protection, according to Greenpeace. Industrial fishing and the use of fish aggregating devices (FADs) have resulted in a significant decrease in catches of big-eye and yellow-fin tuna.

FADs are floating devices used to attract deep-sea fish like tuna which usually consist of buoys or floats tethered to the ocean floor with concrete blocks. This method of fishing greatly increases by-catch, including juveniles, severely impacting all kinds of ocean life. Global tuna fishing kills 100 million sharks and tens of thousands of sea turtles every year, causing devastation to the entire fishing system, according to Greenpeace.

Nearly 60% of the world’s tuna comes from the Pacific, where the region’s valuable big-eye and yellow-fin tuna are currently being overfished, Greenpeace said. They are now listed as vulnerable on the red-list of endangered species published by IUCN4. The increased catch of juvenile tuna with FADs is further putting these species at risk.

Greenpeace is campaigning globally for nations to ban the use of FADs across the Western and Central Pacific. Greenpeace is also demanding that tuna fishing across the Western and Central Pacific be cut in half.

“We are not just trying to protect tuna,” Communication Officer Renee Chou said, “But by protecting tuna, other species and juveniles will be protected as well.”

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