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Greenpeace activists clash with fishermen at sea

A Greenpeace activist had to be airlifted to hospital after having a boat hook slice through his leg during violent clashes at sea with fishermen.

French fishing crews sank two Greenpeace inflatables and badly damaged another as the conservationists tried to prevent them catching Atlantic bluefin tuna.

Frank Hewetson, an activist on one of seven inflatables deployed by Greenpeace for the operation, was badly hurt when a gaffe hook pierced his leg.

He was then hauled the length of an inflatable as a fisherman pulled on the gaffe hook to bring the vessel closer. Greenpeace remains uncertain whether the injury was deliberate or an unintended consequence of wielding dangerous equipment in a close-quarters encounter.

In turn, Jean-Marie Avallone, the owner of French fishing boats, claimed a fisherman had been hurt when the Greenpeace vessel Arctic Sunrise rammed a trawler during a further clash yesterday.
Members of the conservation group questioned the claim and said they were unaware of any collision.

Mr Hewetson, who remains in hospital in Malta, was injured on Friday as activists attempted to free endangered bluefin tuna from a seine purse net and were met with a robust and armed response from the fishing crews.

Willie Mackenzie, an activist on board, wrote: “The fishermen reacted with a shocking level of violence and complete disregard for anyone’s safety. They attacked our inflatable boats.”
Olly Knowles, another activist trying to disrupt the tuna fishing fleets in the Mediterranean, said today: “Frank got a boat hook all the way through his leg. It made quite a hole. “A lot of the fishermen were very seriously armed with knives, clubs, and harpoons. There was a real intention to defend the net.”

The second confrontation took place yesterday as a cage full of bluefin tuna was towed towards the Tunisian coast to be added to a tuna ranch - where the live fish are fattened up for sale.
Greenpeace tried to cut away some of the ropes holding the net in place but they were again met by a robust response from the crews: “We were met with a less violent but still vigorous defence.”
It is the first time that Greenpeace has tried to free bluefin tuna from nets or cages and it marks a change in tactics for the group which has been frustrated by the continued failure of the European Union to stop issuing tuna quotas.

Atlantic bluefin tuna numbers are estimated to have slumped by at least 80 per cent since the Industrial Revolution and they have been especially hard hit by purse seine fishing. Research suggests fisheries are close to collapse and there are fears the fish may never be able to recover if severe limits on catching it are not introduced soon.

Fishing crews have been issued with month-long licences to catch bluefin tuna, which can fetch up to £100,000 each, until June 15 as the fish move into the Mediterranean from the Atlantic to spawn.
A spokesman for the Federation of Malta Aquaculture said: “The fishermen were acting within their rights and were doing nothing to provoke attention by these activists except for the fact that they were carrying exercising their trade.

“Greenpeace cannot pretend that such actions are measured and or peaceful. They are pure and simply designed to cause economic loss with violence against innocent operators.”

Atlantic bluefin tuna, Thunnus thynnus, can swim at speeds of more than 40mph, reach more than 13 feet in length, and weigh more than 550lbs, but numbers are dwindling.

Watch a video clip here

By Lewis Smith


TEOTL goes to Fishing 2010

To the Glasgow fishing exhibition, Trawler Central. A huge hall full of big diesels and nets. I felt I owed the fishermen a visit as I have just occasionally had a pop at the Scottish fishing industry. The Fishing 2010 press release said I was brave to go. We screened a 52-minute version of The End of the Line in a theatre that was part of the fishing exhibition. On the panel: Bertie Armstrong from the Scottish Fishermens’ Federation, Philip MacMullen from Seafish, Louize Hill from WWF and Callum Roberts from York University.

Let’s deal with the routine stuff first: Scottish fishermen have turned the corner and are doing their best to bring about the recovery of the cod. Absolutely, said I, credit where it is due. There is no evidence that marine reserves work for migratory species. Nonsense, said Callum and I, the only place in the world they say that is Aberdeen and they’ve no evidence for it. Why not set one up and do a proper experiment? Why don’t fishermen get any credit for doing good things when they do? Well, how often am I supposed to praise the Scotttish conservation credits scheme? I was the first journalist to praise Scottish fishermen for going to Brussels and arguing that they should be given more quota if they fished more selectively. I said a couple of years ago that the British fishing industry seemed to have turned the corner after the disgraceful situation of a decade or more ago with up to 50 per cent of the cod taken from the North Sea illegally. How many times do you want me to say it?

Two things that were said stood out for me that day. One was said by a West Coast trawlerman and scallop dredger. “You’re the one who’s obsequious to the public,” he said. I confess I got very annoyed by that. After all, hadn’t I spent years writing about what I considered to be the scandal of overfishing long before anyone else seemed to know about it or a publisher would publish it? Hadn’t I spent two years with a number of others turning a not-for-profit film that turned that book into a film? I’m not sure which bit was being obsequious to the public. As far as I was concerned, I was attempting to report the truth and the public were decent enough to take up the message of the film because they believed our case that overfishing was a much more serious problem than we recognised before.

Several Scottish fishermen seemed to hear an RP accent and assume one has made a fortune out of the film when most of us had actually made sacrifices to tell the truth. The other thing that surprised me was when Louize Hill of WWF said that Scotland was “not that bad,” or words to that effect, when it came to fisheries. This may have been a slip of the tongue. What she probably meant was that the cod in the North Sea may have turned the corner. But I would not like WWF to think that Scotland did not have fisheries disasters as bad as any in the world. You have only to look at the Firth of Clyde, just a few miles downriver from Glasgow. The cod, haddock and whiting are now gone, collapsed to a state where the US government would have long ago closed the fishery to any kind of mobile gear, ie trawls.

Langoustines are now the staple for both the creel and trawl fisheries. Yet Marine Science Scotland reported this year that even the langoustine is being exploited unsustainably in the Clyde – and in many other parts of Scotland. The discard rate of whitefish is colossal. When you have fished out all the fish and then the shellfish, what will you have left but jellyfish and plankton? The Scottish Government continues to be in denial about the disaster that is Scotland’s West Coast.

If it were to recognise what its own scientists are saying it might have to do something about fishing effort, which would play poorly with its core constituency. It would be disconcerting to think that any environmental groups nourished any of the same delusions.

Charles Clover


US cats still eating bluefin flavour Whiskas

Cat food flavoured with bluefin tuna, an endangered species, is being advertised online by the food giant Mars in the United States despite undertakings by the company that it will phase out seafood from unsustainable sources.

US readers of Fish2fork have pointed out the following link to catfood with “natural” bluefin tuna flavour:

Last month Mars Petcare announced in Britain that it was now committed globally to using only sustainably sourced fish across the Whiskas and Sheba brand ranges by 2020. By the end of this year, the eco-label denoting Marine Stewardship Council certification would appear on packs.

Mark Johnson, managing director of the company, told environmental groups in a letter: “As Europe’s largest petcare business we consider that we are in a position to affect (sic) real change where governments and regulators acting along may not be able to.”

Willie Mackenzie of Greenpeace commented: “Continuing to encourage the use of endangered species for catfood seems rather at odds with Whiskas’ recent announcement that they will only take fish from sustainable stocks, and eventually get round to sourcing all its fish sustainable by 2020.

“Atlantic bluefin is collapsing now. There probably won’t be any left by 2020, so Whiskas may find it impossible to get a sustainable source for their ‘natural bluefin flavour’ very, very soon.”

A spokesman for Mars Petcare US said that the following statement was valid from the time of its policy announcement on March 31 – though it has not been released to the press before as far as we know.

“Sustainability is a journey and we’ve worked quickly to identify a viable and sustainable replacement for WHISKAS® Blue Fin Tuna Flavor in Sauce®. We’re pleased to announce today that we’re removing Blue Fin Tuna from the WHISKAS® line up and offering cats and cat lovers a more sustainable WHISKAS® variety made with real Pacific albacore tuna.”

The spokesman was unable to say what has become of the ahi tuna flavoured Whiskas also advertised online. Ahi is a Hawaiian term used to describe both yellowfin tuna and the endangered bigeye tuna.

Charles Clover


Britain announces world’s largest marine reserve

London, 1.4.10.

A marine reserve that will double the amount of the world’s oceans under protection was announced today by David Miliband, the British Foreign Secretary.

The protected area will extend 200 miles around the British Indian
Ocean Territory, a dependant territory in the middle of the Indian
Ocean, and will include a “no-take” marine reserve where commercial
fishing will be banned.

The 55 tiny islands of the Chagos Archipelago, as the islands are also
known, sit in some of world’s cleanest seas, surrounded by nearly 50
per cent of the remaining undamaged coral reefs in the Indian Ocean.

The marine protected area announced by Mr Miliband will be a quarter of a million square miles in size, some 70,000 square miles larger than the one around the North Hawaiian Islands declared by George W. Bush just before he left office.

Until the very last minute concerns about opposition from Mauritius,
which has a long-standing claim to the islands, had threatened to
derail the announcement of the reserve or at least postpone it beyond the next general election, expected to be called next week, as had the unresolved court case against Britain by Chagossians evicted in the creation of a military base on one of the islands, Diego Garcia.

Announcing the creation of the reserve, Mr Miliband said “I am today instructing the Commissioner of the British Indian Ocean Territory to declare a Marine Protected Area.

“Its creation is a major step forward for protecting the oceans, not
just around BIOT itself, but also throughout the world. This measure
is a further demonstration of how the UK takes its international
environmental responsibilities seriously.

“I have taken the decision to create this marine reserve following a
full consultation, and careful consideration of the many issues and
interests involved. The response to the consultation was impressive
both in terms of quality and quantity. We intend to continue to work
closely with all interested stakeholders, both in the UK and
internationally, in implementing the MPA.

“I would like to emphasise that the creation of the MPA will not
change the UK’s commitment to cede the Territory to Mauritius when it is no longer needed for defence purposes and it is, of course, without prejudice to the outcome of the current, pending proceedings before the European Court of Human Rights.”

Well over 90% of those who responded to the consultation made clear that they supported greater marine protection.

Scientists also advised that BIOT was likely to be key, both in
research and geographical terms, to the repopulation of coral systems along the East Coast of Africa and hence to the recovery in marine food supply in sub-Saharan Africa.

BIOT waters would continue to be patrolled by the territory’s patrol
vessel, which will enforce the reserve’s conditions. Alistair Gammell of the Pew Environment Group, a founding member of the coalition of environmental organizations known as the Chagos
Environment Network (CEN), which campaigned for the reserve, said: “We are thrilled by the U.K. government’s decision to declare the Chagos in its entirety as a no-take protected area.”

“The oceans desperately need better protection. In 2010, the
International Year of Biodiversity, the U.K. has secured a
conservation legacy which is unrivalled in scale and significance,
demonstrating to the world that it is a leader in conserving the
world’s marine resources for the benefit of future generations.”

Greenpeace biodiversity campaigner Willie Mackenzie said: “These
coral seas are a biodiversity hotspot in the Indian Ocean, and
unquestionably worthy of protection from destructive activities like
fishing. And this marine reserve will provide a safe refuge for many
globally endangered species such as sharks and turtles.

“The creation of this marine reserve is a first step towards securing
a better and sustainable future for the Chagos Islands. But this
future must include securing justice for the Chagossian people and the closure and removal of the Diego Garcia military base.”

By Charles Clover


Por fin – France support trade ban on bluefin tuna

At last, France has officially announced support for an international trade ban on Atlantic bluefin. This is great news.

It means that 23 out of the 27 EU countries now support the species being protected by CITES (the organisation which regulates trade in endangered species). It also means there is no longer any effective block to stop the EU reaching a common position (at a previous vote, it had been blocked by the Mediterranean countries).

Two of the main fishing nations, Italy and France are supporting the trade ban, and Italy has already declared it is suspending its own fishery. That is pretty momentous. It’s as if the proverbial turkeys have just voted for Christmas by a landslide.

Wind back just a year, and this might all seem unthinkable. Yet President Sarkozy stood up on a podium last July and announced France was going to protect bluefin. The position in France has not exactly been as clear as consommé in the intervening months, and the political position seems to have flip-flopped more than a floundering fish on a foredeck. Continue reading ‘Por fin – France support trade ban on bluefin tuna’


Bluefin-Eating Surrender Monkeys?

It’s de rigueur in some quarters to dismiss France jokingly, as the Simpsons and some US political-types famously have done in the past. But the news today from Brussels suggests that the French government have made an embarrassing volte-face on bluefin tuna.

Just two months ago, none other than President Sarkozy himself announced that France would back a ban on international trade in Atlantic bluefin tuna. This was huge news, as one of the principal fishing countries for the species, no one had thought they would take this position. This meant supporting the listing of the species under CITES, as is already the case for similarly-threatened species like rhinos, tigers, and gorillas. None of which, of course, are lucrative for big business or in high demand as delicious sushi.

France’s backing for a ban was promptly followed by the UK , Netherlands , Germany , Austria and Poland , all of them lining up to endorse the proposal by Monaco (the world’s first bluefin-free country). Amidst a flurry of media pressure, celebrity lobbying, and the influence of the End Of The Line, it seemed that bluefin had become a cause célèbre … and there was much rejoicing when the European Commission added its weight to the call for a ban just ten days ago.

So – just what has happened today? Well in order for the EU to back the proposal (and all 27 Member States would be bound by this) they needed to get a ‘qualified majority’ of 75%, effectively representing three quarters of the EU’s population. Because large and populous countries like France , Spain and Italy have voted against the proposal – there is in effect no agreement.

That means the decision will pass to Environment ministers from each of the EU member states at a later meeting, and it means that for all the press-posturing, none of the EU countries, or the EU itself, can co-sponsor Monaco ’s proposal to make a ban on the international trade in bluefin a reality.

Undoubtedly there has been fervent lobbying behind the scenes, by those with a vested interest, from the EU and beyond. And we know, too, that the ineffectual and shambolic Management Organisation ICCAT, currently tasked with looking after Atlantic bluefin, is desperate not to cede control to CITES. But we also know that others are wising up to the situation, with Mitsubishi Corporation last week reiterating its own concerns over the state of Atlantic bluefin.

So, as well as possibly being an embarrassing day to be European, today is not a good day to be a bluefin tuna – with reports surfacing just last week of the failures of enforcement and ever more illegal fishing of this beleaguered species.

As they say in France , plus ça change.


The End of the Line - news and reviews that slipped through the net

While reviewing the coverage that The End of the Line has received over the past months we came across a number of articles and stories that we hadn’t included in our weekly news round-ups.

To put this right, we have pulled together all the articles that slipped through the net, below.

You can see what the media and the blogosphere have had to say about The End of the Line on our new Media Coverage page.

Back in May Endangered New Jersey blog carried a preview of the film. It said: “The film aims to be more than just a doomsday warning. It offers real, practical solutions that are simple and do-able.”

Total Film reviewed the movie, giving it 3 stars. Jamie Russell said: “[Rupert] Murray, working from Brit journo Charles Clover’s book, accentuates the positive with a closing ‘get involved’ sermon about our eating habits.”

Writing in The Independent in an article on bluefin tuna entitled ‘This is the blue whale of our time‘, Charles Clover said: “The collapse of the bluefin now being predicted is a crisis of Atlantic proportions.”

Also in The Independent Martin Hickman reported on Mitsubishi’s efforts to stockpile bluefin tuna.

The Gazette, a regional paper covering Colchester in Essex, focused on the need for change in fishing legislation.

While an article in The Japan Times showed the reach that the film has had. William Hollingsworth highlighted the contradictions in Nobu’s bluefin tuna policy.

One that we should not have missed was Nobu -no brainer, by our very own Willie MacKenzie of Greenpeace UK, who has been doing tremendous work for The End of the Line.

Caterer Search reported on the efforts by restaurant owner Tom Aikins, who teamed up with the campaign, to change the way professional chefs think about seafood.

He said: “All chefs need to understand where their fish comes from, help with traceability of any fish products, make sure they are not serving endangered species”

The New York Post focused on the storm caused by the film about Nobu, especially the response of celebrities such as Kate Goldsmith and Sienna Miller.

The RSPB, understandably, concentrated on the damage that longline fishing does to seabirds, in its preview of the film.

The Daily Mail covered the move by Pret a Manger to stop using unsustainable tuna.

As did The Sunday Times.

The Hampshire Chronicle carried a lengthy preview of the film, featuring quotes from The End of the Line producer Claire Lewis. She said: “I read Charles Clover’s book and it changed my view of the ocean overnight. I rang him and the rest is history.”

On World Ocean’s Day, the Telegraph ran a preview of the film. As did The Guardian, who also focused on Pret a Manger’s move away from unsustainable seafood.

Greenpeace’s Willie Mackenzie continued to publicise the film, outlining the campaign’s activities in the run up to World Ocean’s Day.

Birdlife International said of the release of the film: “Today, on World Oceans Day, a powerful new film - The End of the Line - highlights the problems of over-fishing.”

In The Times, Ocean’s Correspondent Frank Pope, wrote: “Explanations do not get much more powerful than the film The End of the Line, which looks at the effect of overfishing, and which is being shown today, World Oceans Day, at cinemas nationwide.”

Environment news site Ecorazzi focused their attention on the celebrity response to Nobu’s decision to keep bluefin tuna on the menu.

The celebrity party after the 8th June screenings featured in the London Evening Standard.

Sam Leith, writing in the London Evening Standard, hailed Charles Clover as a ‘hero’. However, it is because of Sam’s love of eating tuna that he is concerned about it’s possible extinction.

The BBC explored a number of the issues that are raised in the film, especially the threat to bluefin tuna. Stephen Dowling quotes Charles Clover as saying: “Bluefin tuna has become the poster boy for the overfishing campaign. It’s on the buffers - it’s really on the slide down now.”

Daniel Kessler of Greenpeace, writing in the Huffington Post, praised the film: “Nobu’s arrogant denial of the reality of our mutual challenge - the continual decline of the health of our oceans - is a serious problem.”

He went on to say: “Greenpeace has already “outed” Nobu on their unsustainable practices (this interaction is featured in the forthcoming documentary The End of the Line, based on the excellent book by Charles Clover).”

Another Greenpeace blogger, Adele, was also very impressed, saying: “I was at the [UK] premiere screening of the film (a documentary based on the book by journalist Charles Clover) here in London, and boy, it took me back. It was like Defending Our Oceans: The Movie.”

Financial news organisation Bloomberg concentrated on the Pret a Manger’s assertion that prices will not go up after their move to sustainable tuna.

Writing in Newsweek, Daniel Stone said: “At current capacity, the world’s fishing fleet could catch four times more fish each year than are actually alive in the oceans.

“This sad fact is the central point of a new documentary released today, End of The Line, an astute, powerful and discomforting look at what we’ve done to the world’s oceans.”

Sylvia Patterson, writing in the Sunday Herald, said that for her, “a world without fish is a world where there’s nowt for tea.”

“The End of the Line has arrived all round, as the just-released film globally acknowledged to be the Inconvenient Truth of the oceans thunders home its staggering facts about ‘the greatest environmental disaster that no-one’s heard of’.”

The London Paper reported on the reasons behind Pret a Manager’s change in tuna sourcing policy: “Metcalfe changed the store’s policy on tuna after seeing The End of the Line, the shocking documentary on the global fishing business.

“He saw the film five months ago and was so disturbed, he arranged a private viewing for 40 of the company’s senior managers at a private cinema in London four days later. ‘I felt I had a responsibility,’ he says. ‘Knowledge is power’.”

The Big Issue in Scotland reported the angry reaction to the film from Scottish fishermen, who said it was “excessively gloomy and over-simplistic”.


Good news for fisheries - if we continue conservation measures

So. Is the glass half full, or half empty?

There are of course other options, and it may well be difficult to tell because you are looking at the glass from a funny angle.

Man holding tuna - The new report underlines that in large swathes of the worlds' fisheries conservation measures are not happening

The new report underlines that in large swathes of the worlds' fisheries conservation measures are not happening

That certainly seems to be the conclusion when reading the various media interpretations of an important new study published in the journal Science on the world’s fisheries.

The study’s key co-authors are Professor Boris Worm, and Professor Ray Hilborn – who can be seen verbally dueling over the state of the world’s fisheries in The End Of The Line.

Continue reading ‘Good news for fisheries - if we continue conservation measures’


Newlyn black fishing case: nominal £1 fines for 45 charges

Despite the old adage, it seems that crime does pay… at least if you are the Stevenson family of Newlyn.

Cod - Newlyn black fishing case: nominal £1 fines for 45 charges

Cod - The Stevenson family were fined £1 for each of the 45 charges that they were found guilty of

As reported by the BBC, the family, who operate fishing trawlers in Cornwall, were prosecuted for routinely landing illegal fish.

Not only were they landing species they had no quotas for, but they were doing so by passing them off as other species, so it was all pre-meditated and well-orchestrated.

They also conveniently ran the auctions where the fish are sold, and falsified the records of what fish had been sold to match what the skippers said they landed.

And it was also profitable - it’s estimated that £4m worth of fish were landed illegally. All the more galling that the firm is run by Elizabeth Stevenson, who was the former president of the National Federation of Fisheries Organisations.

But we can take solace in the fact that they were caught and prosecuted. They were found guilty of a total of 45 charges. And they have been fined accordingly… or so the judge seems to think.

On top of paying legal costs (£66,000) and being ordered to pay back £710,000, they have just been fined for the offences. But the total fine of the actual fine was £45. Yes, £45, I didn’t misplace the decimal point or under-report anything. One measly pound for every charge for which they were found guilty.

Just to set that in context: they profited by over £4 million… and are being punished by getting to keep over £3.2 million.

Whilst some may shrug their shoulders and say, “Well, it’s all Europe’s fault,” they knew what they were doing, and they were trying to get around the system - the system that is of course there because of concerns over dwindling fish stocks and over-fishing.

Had they been trying to use their (clearly) considerable influence to make a point about a problem with discards, I would applaud them. Had they been making a point about destructive fishing methods like beam-trawling being unacceptable (and they would know all about beam-trawlers), then I would have sympathy.

But the truth is, it was all about making money, and to hell with the environmental considerations. These are the real pirates of Penzance but there is nothing romantic about it.

This makes me very angry, and you should be too. They are over-fishing stocks that belong to all of us. This is your money. These are your fish.

There is also a huge amount of irony in Elizabeth Stevenson’s response that, “It’s not going to be easy to find this sum of money. It’s huge.”

  • Willie MacKenzie is part of Greenpeace’s Ocean Campaign. This blog post originally appeared on the Greenpeace UK website.


Looks are everything for charismatic megafauna

A couple of stories in the press today caught my eye. Both are about what we internally refer to as ‘charismatic megafauna’ (the big animals people tend to be interested in and care about), but they are also both damning indictments of our failure to protect our oceans and the life that depends on them.

Great white shark - Looks are everything for charismatic megafauna

Great white shark: Many sharks are killed as fishing bycatch or for their valuable fins

Firstly – in the week of the International Whaling Commission meeting in Madeira, Portugal – whilst lots of countries get together to talk lots and try not to upset each other too much, the BBC reports that a highly-endangered species of porpoise is being pushed ever closer to extinction.

In a world panicking about recession and swine flu the conservation of this highly-endangered species is dropping off the priority list.

The Vaquita (the name means ‘little cow’ in Spanish) is one of the world’s smallest cetaceans (the family that includes whales, dolphins and porpoises) … and it gets much less air time than its bigger, more familiar cousins.

Yet it is really on the edge. It is the unwitting victim of bycatch in fisheries – something dolphin and porpoise lovers are all-too-familiar with in UK waters. And in late 2007 scientists warned that unless action was taken, the species could be extinct in just a few years.

But just in case you are rolling your eyes at the thought of Greenpeace being concerned about ‘cuddly’ porpoises – think on, as the news reports today are awash with dire warnings on more contentious oceanic animals too.

A new study shows that over a third of the world’s open ocean sharks are now threatened with extinction, including widely-recognisable species like hammerheads and great whites (There’s a nice photo gallery showing them off over on The Guardian website).

The major threat? Why, it’s destructive and unsustainable fishing practices – killing sharks as bycatch, and targeting them for their valuable fins. This of course is why we’ve been campaigning on tinned tuna – an industry which can have a dramatic impact on sharks, as well as turtles and other species.

Thankfully it is now quite easy to find pole-and-line caught tuna in the UK – caught using the most environmentally-friendly method - but the rest of the tuna industry still has a long way to go.

Sharks and porpoises are particularly vulnerable, being long lived, slow-growing animals. But they are also critters that people at least can recognise and express an interest in. If we can’t do right by those ones, what hope is there for the less charismatic inhabitants of our oceans

  • Willie MacKenzie is part of Greenpeace’s Ocean Campaign. This blog post originally appeared on the Greenpeace UK website.


Robert De Niro, what are you waiting for?

The celeb-favourite sushi restaurant Nobu is back in the media spotlight this week, but with column inches devoted to bluefin tuna rather than A-list diners.

Greenpeace activists give out leaflets outside Nobu protesting against the restaurant selling bluefin tuna

Greenpeace activists give out leaflets outside Nobu protesting against the restaurant selling bluefin tuna

As Greenpeace revealed last year, Nobu, who pride themselves as market leaders and an exclusive venue, were serving up bluefin tuna as sushi.

Bluefin is an endangered species, like rhinos, tigers, or gorillas, and after it was pointed out to them last September (although the species had been on the IUCN red list of endangered species for 12 years, had they bothered to check), they gave assurances that they would do something about it.

But sadly it seems Nobu can’t be bothered. They know they are serving up endangered species, and helping to push them towards extinction, but profit comes first, right? Continue reading ‘Robert De Niro, what are you waiting for?’


Turkey gobbles up tuna

No, this is not another story about the crazy things we feed to our farm animals, but rather yet another sad tale of failure in fisheries management … and yet another nail in the coffin for bluefin tuna in the Mediterranean.

Quite apart from the fact that ICCAT (the body responsible for managing fish like bluefin tuna) has been repeatedly denounced as not fit for the job (specifically it was called an ‘international disgrace’ last year); and aside from the politicians having yet again set quotas for bluefin tuna in excess of the scientists recommendations; skipping over the issue of rampant illegal fishing for this species; and parking the small issue of this being an endangered species… Turkey has just unilaterally set itself a quota for bluefin, breaking international commitments and sticking two fingers up at any coordinated attempt to manage the species across national boundaries.

This is on top of a Greenpeace investigation revealing that between 5 and 10 tonnes of juvenile bluefin tuna had been landed in a Turkish port.

Now, as we know, fish (and other animals) don’t respect national boundaries, so in theory some international cooperation is a good idea when it comes to looking after these animals. Right? You’d think. But in true tragedy-of-the-commons style, that is often scant comfort for things that live in the ocean. Fish are horse-traded against other political issues, and compliance and enforcement is, well, variable to say the least.

But think for a moment, to what might happen if bluefin tuna were not a fish, but a land animal, like the similarly endangered rhino, tiger, or gorilla … would this be allowed to happen?

Maybe bluefin are just not cuddly enough, and a little too tasty – but they are amazing animals. This is one of the reasons why bluefin are the tragic stars of the new movie, The End Of The Line. If they were mammals they might be admired for their size (like elephants), speed (like cheetahs) or their place as a top predator (like tigers).

Sadly – they are more likely to be appraised only for the amount of dollars or yen they fetch at market. Of course this is scandalously short-sighted, and our collective greed and disregard is pushing the species towards extinction.

The people in charge of ‘managing’ bluefin tuna have failed – it’s time for a new approach, and for the species to be treated as it would be if it were an endangered animal on land. And with politicians and fishermen unwilling to do the right thing, it’s time for consumers and suppliers to take a stance.

So it’s up to the big players like Nobu, who serve up bluefin as sushi to celebrity diners, and Mitsubishi, who are the biggest traders in bluefin in the Mediterranean.

Not only should we all be avoiding bluefin on our menus, but also demanding our politicians take action to turn things around, and hopefully rescue the species from the abyss. The first step in the Mediterranean would be a ban on fishing all bluefin until such time as the management and enforcement was sorted out, and in setting aside areas where we know bluefin breed as protected Marine Reserves.

Otherwise, it might well be the end of the line for an iconic ocean species.


Save the fish and save the world!

Dramatic title perhaps, but maybe not quite so far-fetched.

In Sundance, one of the questions that came up repeatedly at showings of the End Of The Line movie is ‘what about climate change?’ assuming, rightly, that a warming planet will have implications for our fish populations too.

Orange roughy after being caught by a deep sea trawler

Orange roughy after being caught by a deep sea trawler

Well my practised response to this before I got there was simply that the effects of climate change make all of the issues of rapacious overfishing all the more important. They make the need for precaution when it comes to fishing, and the need for fully protected areas essential.

The truth is that climate change is already affecting our oceans, and we don’t know what the outcome will be on currents/temperature/salinity, which means we can’t predict what impact it will have on plankton or anything more complicated.

But common sense tells us, in degraded oceans, where we have already diminished sealife’s ability to cope, it won’t be good news. Continue reading ‘Save the fish and save the world!’


One fish, two fish, red fish . . . .

So, we’ve been here at Sundance to help give Greenpeace support to the End Of The Line film.

In many ways this isn’t normal Greenpeace territory, and we found out with quite short notice that the movie was premiering here in Utah, so we scratched our collective heads and thought what to do.

In the end, and after some complicated logistics involving four Greenpeace offices (thank you guys!) we managed to get five Greenpeace US volunteers, and two red fish suits from Greenpeace Netherlands.

Park City during Sundance is crazy busy. The Main Street, hotels, and carparks are all chockablock, and everyone has a film to sell or see.

So, clearly we needed something to attract a bit of attention. And I think that a huge, round, red, fluffy fish is about as eye-catching as it gets. Our teams of volunteers alternated between being fish, and engaging with curious members of the Sundance public who wanted to know what’s going on. Continue reading ‘One fish, two fish, red fish . . . .’


Is it The End Of The Line?

So, what’s the movie we’re here in Sundance with about then? Well it’s an adaptation of Charles Clover’s brilliant book on overfishing, The End Of The Line, which is an evocative, and shocking portrayal of what we have done, and are doing to our oceans – just to put seafood on our plates.

Greenpeace guppies spread their message on overfishing on the ski slopes

Greenpeace guppies spread their message about overfishing on the ski slopes

Seafood is a global issue and practically nowhere on our seas is beyond human reach now – the movie gives an overview of the main issues like overfishing, destructive fishing and poor management.

The movie takes a global look at the true price we’re paying for our seafood, vividly illustrating the impact we’re having, but that very few of us even realise.
Continue reading ‘Is it The End Of The Line?’