I’m currently on the Greenpeace ship Esperanza in the South Pacific. We’re on the Defending Our Pacific tour, which is a campaign to establish a global network of marine reserves, stop overfishing of Pacific fisheries, and support Pacific island nations efforts to stop Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) fishing in their waters.
Crewman aboard the Japanese vessel Koyu Maru 3, fishing in Cook Islands waters illegally, haul a tuna onboard. Like climate change, overfishing of the world’s fisheries is threatening the livelihood of developing countries who are not contributing significantly to the source of the problem. Image © Paul Hilton/Greenpeace
Last week, we caught the Japanese ship Koyu Maru 3 fishing in Cook Islands waters without a license, which is obviously illegal. When I blogged a bout it on the Greenpeace website, I made the point that this was not just illegal but also immoral. So why is it immoral?
Last week, a new study was released by The Commonwealth that underscores the drastic need for government action on overfishing and climate change in order to stave off a collapse of global fisheries. The report warns that the oceans could soon become “deserts” and goes on to say:
The study reveals that those least responsible for the state of the oceans are most likely to suffer the consequences of poor management and climate change. Small island states in particular are vulnerable to illegal and unfair fishing by foreign fleets and to migration of fish away from warming seas.
The Esperanza has been in the Pacific region since May to support Pacific Island countries on issues ranging from climate change to fisheries collapse and marine conservation. But of course Greenpeace’s history in the Pacific Ocean goes back much further than that — all the way back to the early 1970s when we were protesting the French nuclear blasts at Moruroa. The fallout from these blasts also disproportionately affected those Pacific islanders living downwind from the blast sites — another instance of those not responsible for a problem suffering the most. While there was nothing technically illegal about these blasts, the total disregard for human health and welfare is egregious.
The industrialized commercial fishing vessels that are literally stealing fish from Pacific island nations’ waters is just another example of the developed world doing as they please and disregarding the well-being of the people affected by their actions. That’s why it’s very encouraging that eight Pacific island nations have come together and are standing up for their rights against these invading international commercial fishing fleets.
Pacific island states are not the only developing nations that are banding together to force the developed world to live up to their other moral obligations: “Africa will demand billions of dollars in compensation from rich polluting nations at a UN climate summit for the harm caused by global warming on the continent, African officials said Sunday.”
Lest we doubt that there is any need for this stand by African nations, even the World Bank, generally no friend to the developing world, is warning of the threats those nations are facing as the climate crisis looms: “The World Bank estimates that the developing world will suffer about 80 percent of the damage of climate change despite accounting for only around one third of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.”
So the real question we must be asking ourselves is: Will the developed world stand up and do the right thing in regard to these moral obligations?