The Esperanza, a greenpeace ship, took off from American Samoa yesterday, launching the group's Defending the Pacific tour. They're calling for marine reserves to be established in four areas of the Pacific, referred to as the Pacific Commons.
Presenter: Geraldine Coutts
Speaker: Casson Trenor, Greenpeace campaigner onboard the Esperanza
COUTTS: I'm speaking with Casson Tremor, a Greenpeace campaigner on board the Esperanza. Now you mention there, there are some out there who are turning a blind eye or fail to acknowledge the extent of the illegal fishing that's going on in the Pacific. But can you describe how bad you think it is?
TRENOR: We're heading north from American Samoa, towards Tokelau and the Cook Islands.
COUTTS: What are your plans, your bid is to stop pirate tuna fishing, so how do you plan to do that?
TRENOR: Well, our tactics will vary, depending on the situation. We have a lot of different methods at our disposal. It's going to depend a lot on what the vessel that we find is engaged in, whether or not it's directly illegal fishing or more grey area, which flag the vessel's flying, what methods that they're using to catch fish. There's a lot of different things that could affect our decision, but the bottom line is that we're out there to collect evidence to prove to the governments that work out here, that this kind of activity is going on and needs to be stopped and if there's no other enforcement, vessels that are able to do so, Greenpeace will step in and make sure that it happens.
COUTTS: If you do come across a ship that's fishing illegally, what will you do?
TRENOR: Well, I would say probably the most likely illegal activity that we're going to find is a seine vessel that's fishing in one the high sea pockets, the high seas areas in the south part of the ocean, during what's happening right now which is a ban on purse seining in those areas, using fish aggregating devices. If we find that, we'll do basically we'll pull out all the stops and use all non-violent, of course, means that we have to make sure that this vessel does not pull in fish. The amount of damage and by-catch that these vessels incur when they're using fish aggregating devices is unacceptable. We're talking about countless dead sharks and marlin and many other types of animals in addition to the tuna that they're after every year, every vessel and even now we have the governments that are in control of these areas, the various island states stating that there shall be no purse seining during this time, so these vessels are ignoring that. It's basically up to us to make sure that they don't continue to do that kind of damage and we will do everything we can to stop them.
COUTTS: Yeah, but I'm not quite sure what action you can take, especially non-violent action?
TRENOR: Well, there's a lot of different options. It depends on what stage they're in when we encounter the vessel. We're able to deploy ribs or zodiacs what have you various crafts to try to prevent them from closing the nets or to scare the fish out of the nets, so when they pull it up there's no fish left in the net. We are ready to go ahead and use various different types of paint and paint application to label the ships, so when they come into port, it'll be very easy for the governments to identify that they were the ones that we encountered. We are not going to take any kind of direct and violent acts, as Greenpeace we don't believe in ever doing that, but there are a number of ways, a number of mechanisms that we can employ to make sure that when they pull those nets out of the water, there's no fish left in them.
COUTTS: Alright, so you won't be taking Sea Shepherd kind of action that they took with the Japanese whalers?
TRENOR: Well, I don't see any reason that we would be ramming these ships if that's what you mean.
COUTTS: Alright, so can we get down to the protection of the tuna stocks now. What kind of assessment will you be doing, what kind of protection can you give in addition to what you've described?
TRENOR: Well, the protection for the tuna stocks are something that's being slowly ramped up by the governments in this area over time. As the tuna stocks in the Pacific have dwindled, because of this unflagging pressure by the tuna industry. The local governments and in various countries, Kiribati, Tokelau and other island states in the area have really come to fight harder and harder to protect what is really they're on resources and to fight for a more sustainable and equitable tuna industry.
Greenpeace's job out here is to basically witness and capture footage of what's really happening, so when these industry vessels and owning companies deny that these things are happening, we're able to say well actually, we were there and we have a picture of you killing this turtle, we have a picture of you finning these sharks and we do and we'll be getting more. So that's the main part of what we do out here. The most important thing is to collect this evidence so we can provide it to the governments that own these resources so they're able to prosecute these illegal vessels appropriately.
There's not a lot of enforcement capacity in the Pacific. We're talking about a pretty big part of the planet and these countries that we're dealing with they don't have a whole lot of money to put towards patrolling their own waters. So our presence here we think is one of the most important things we can do is simply be a pair of eyes and a pair of ears looking for all the nefarious activity that's going on out here.
TRENOR: It's yeah, it's bad. It's worse than anybody would like to imagine. We've got all of the tuna stocks that are being targeted right now by the tuna industry are in some degree of trouble. Now the one that is really the tuna that feeds the world. the Skipjack tuna are still in pretty good shape, but it's starting to show signs that things are flagging. The larger tunas, the Yellow Fin and the Big Eye Tuna are already in trouble. The Big Eye Tuna actually have just been classified as a species that's at risk of extinction and the Skipjack seiners that are out there right now, the same ones we're looking forr, when they pull in their nets, when they're using fish aggregating devices to do it, they're looking for Skipjack, but between 15 and 20 per cent of their take is actually juvenile Yellow Fin and juvenile Big Eye, species that are in real trouble and they're catching them before they have a chance to reproduce and bolster the stocks. So things are not good, and hopefully as the laws and the management tighten up out here, we'll see a reversal of that.
COUTTS: Now, you want to set up a Pacific commons, four areas of the Pacific that will be marine reserves. Marine reserves are a fine ideal if you like, but those who are prepared to abide by the law, but those who don't will ignore the fact that there are Pacific common anyway?
TRENOR: Marine reserves are an incredibly important part overall solution here of rebuilding the Pacific and the stocks and creating both a healthy ocean and sustainable tuna industry. Yes, there are going to be enforcement issues with it, but we're already seeing those problems being addressed, to have the various island states in the Pacific come together and institute a ban on fish aggregating devices and purse seines in those pockets to begin with. This is something that has never been done before until these past two years.
COUTTS: It's OK if you're prepared to abide by the ban, but clearly as you've already cited, there are those per seiners who are putting out the aggregating devices who are ignoring the bans?
TRENOR: There are, and that's one of the things that we're looking for here. But hopefully what we're going to see is as enforcement capacity increases, while the money from the resources is directed back to the countries that actually own it. Things like number of apprehensions of vessels will go up, fines will go up and it will simply become not worth it economically to go all the way out to the high seas pockets, rather it will make sense for these purse seiners to fish within the exclusive economic zones of these countries, pay the freight, respect the stocks as per the legislation of that particular country and then move on from there. So we'll have a general shift of vessels out of these unmanaged areas, into the local EEZs of these other countries.
COUTTS: And we're just about out of time, so very quickly, how long can you stay out there doing this work?
TRENOR: We'll be out there for awhile. We've got everything we need to be out here and take care of business for quite a bit. So I would say that at least a month.