12 October 2012

Southern Africa: Listening to and Empowering Indian Ocean Fishing Communities

press release

After almost three weeks at sea in the southern region of the Indian Ocean, the second leg of our Indian Ocean expedition is wrapping up.

We've travelled 2400 nautical miles on the Rainbow Warrior from Mozambique, monitoring fishing activities in the high seas south of Madagascar, Reunion, and Mauritius.

We're here in the Indian Ocean to listen to communities and learn about the state of the oceans and fishing industries. We would like to empower communities in the Indian Ocean region to take greater ownership over their ocean resources.

We encountered 17 fishing and fishing-related vessels from Japan, Spain, and Taiwan, targeting tuna, swordfish and sharks. Aside from one fish carrier, all were longliners, a type of vessel that uses a long baited fishing line that can measure up to 170 km long.

We were invited on board six different vessels. Each boarding was a valuable opportunity to get first-hand accounts from captains and crew about fishing in the Indian Ocean. We interviewed the captains, documented what had been caught and spoke to crew members about their living conditions.

It's well known that the operations of these fleets are poorly regulated. There are no observers on board to accurately record what is being pulled out of the water, and catches are often transferred to cargo ships at sea, without going to port.

During our time at sea we encountered a cargo ship positioned near fishing areas and investigations into that ship are ongoing.

Currently, the Indian Ocean is being raided, its fish resources taken from some of the word's poorest communities. Greenpeace is campaigning around the world for more transparency, encouraging retailers and consumers to demand our seafood comes from well-traced and legal sources.

We are now heading to Mauritius to engage with the public, the fishing sector, and members of the government. We are here in the Indian Ocean region to learn from communities, to empower them to take more ownership of our oceans.

We'd like to hear Mauritian views on how to manage the region's fisheries sustainably and equitably, for the benefit of all.

We are grateful to be in Port Louis to begin understanding how the government and industry - including the small-scale fishing sector - view the future of Indian Ocean fisheries.

We hope to learn more about how the Mauritian government and industries intend to meet increasing demand for responsibly sourced tuna.

And our work will continue.

After a few days in Port Louis to take on supplies and do some crew changes, we will continue our investigation of the Indian Ocean's fisheries.

These fisheries are not widely understood and if the millions dependent on the Indian Ocean for food and jobs are to thrive, we need better knowledge and a solid plan to rescue our oceans. We'll update you as the voyage continues.

Sari Tolvanen is an oceans campaigner based in Greenpeace International's Amsterdam office. She is currently on board the Rainbow Warrior.

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