Also by Willie

Taking action - and taking blows - to protect bluefin tuna

Posted by Willie - 5 June 2010 at 1:09pm - Comments

Greenpeace took action in the Mediterranean yesterday to stop some French purse-seiners catching bluefin tuna. And it's fair to say, things kicked off a bit.

At long last, the weather had calmed down and the sea had warmed, and whilst the seas here certainly are not brimming with bluefin, we knew the seiners were sniffing some potential catch. When we saw them coming together at lunchtime we raced to the scene with both the Rainbow Warrior along with the Arctic Sunrise, our not-so-secret second ship in the Mediterranean.

When we got to the scene we quickly worked out that there was a net with some fish, so we deployed immediately to set about freeing the tuna. We knew it would be complicated, there were seven fairly big purse seiners, some support vessels and a whole heap of skiffs and inflatables working with the seiners. The smaller boats were holding the net open whislt the bigger boats were circling to try and protect the catch. Meanwhile a transport cage was being towed towards the scene for the tuna to be moved into. We knew we had to act fast.

Whaling: whose side are EU on?

Posted by Willie - 4 June 2010 at 2:15pm - Comments

By seeking to compromise, the EU may actually be sanctioning commercial whaling. Whale fail!

Ask anyone who the bad guys are on fish and whales. The resounding answer will most probably start with the letter 'J' and end in 'apan'.

And with good reason. Not only is the Japanese government's recent record on (and defence of) commercial whaling scandalous, but as huge consumers of seafood Japan plays a major role in driving the fishing industry worldwide. Like many developed nations, Japan has long since outgrown its ability to depend on local fish in its own waters, so it also has a distant-water fleet scooping up seafood around the globe.

With ICCAT in the driving seat, what hope is there for bluefin?

Posted by Willie - 2 June 2010 at 9:14am - Comments

There's an analogy I sometimes use to explain the problem of overfishing. 

Imagine you are in a car hurtling at full speed down a hillside towards a cliff. Your foot is fully down on the accelerator. You have four options. Keep the foot down and plunge to your certain doom. Slam on the brakes and try to stop before you reach the cliff. Take your chances and jump out of the moving car. Or take your foot off the accelerator and just hope you slow down in time. 

Applying that analogy to Atlantic bluefin tuna, what needs to happen is the brake-slamming option.

Missing: bluefin tuna, last seen heading for extinction

Posted by Willie - 26 May 2010 at 4:16pm - Comments

We're out here in the middle of the Mediterranean. But at the moment, the bluefin tuna don't seem to be here.

The fishing boats are here. The tugs and support vessels are here. The French navy ships which are monitoring/protecting the fishery are here... but the fish aren't.

Perhaps it's just not warm enough yet. Perhaps they're looking in the wrong places. Perhaps the fish are late.

The worst possible scenario for everyone is that the fish have gone.

Krill, baby, krill

Posted by Willie - 26 May 2010 at 3:23pm - Comments

Krill and other plankton are being viewed as a potential food source, but at what cost? (c) cbcastro

We humans are an inventive species. We never tire of finding new ways to do things. Just as we are plundering ever-stupider places to feed our dependency on fossil fuels, so we're unerringly heading to the most environmentally-damaging places to feed our hunger for fish.

The Marine Stewardship Council has just decided to certify Antarctic krill. This is utter madness.

What's lurking in your tuna sandwich?

Posted by Willie - 25 May 2010 at 4:38pm - Comments

Another tin of tuna, because we know you can't get enough of these pictures

The old saying about a can of worms, is based on the idea that once you open said can, it's impossible to get the worms back in and close it again. Who knew that was true of cans of tuna too?

But fresh from our update on some of the international branded laggards yesterday, comes some news of more developments from some of the UK retailers.

Tinned tuna industry polices itself, and it smells so fishy

Posted by Willie - 24 May 2010 at 4:17pm - Comments

There's a well-known model of how dodgy big business deals with campaigns against them. To summarise, it goes a bit like this:

  • Company X gets some bad press for doing something wrong, especially bad press if it kills lots of charismatic megafauna;
  • Company X initially retaliates saying, 'It's all lies, honest';
  • Company X then admits it isn't all lies, but comes up with some way of kicking the issue into the long grass, usually some commission or foundation (ideally with a word like 'conservation' or 'sustainable' in its title) or some interminable period of gathering research, in the hope it all blows over and people forget what they were upset about.

Rainbow Warrior sails the Med to help bluefin tuna's holiday romance

Posted by Willie - 21 May 2010 at 12:18pm - Comments

An ex-bluefin tuna found during the Rainbow Warrior's previous visit to the Mediterranean in 2007 © Greenpeace/Care

Imagine you are an Atlantic bluefin tuna. You've been out at sea most of the year in cooler waters, feeding away and generally getting on with being a big ol' fish at the top of your food chain. You have not a care in the world, save the occasional orca or shark scare.

Then spring is sprung, and the urge takes you. Forces you don't really understand compel you to head back to warmer waters, and a certain key place, sacred to you bluefin. The bluefin equivalent of a romantic dinner and some subdued lighting is a sheltered warm sea, and conditions have to be perfect, or it ain't happening. But even that's not enough. Because of the, er, messy, way most fish reproduce, they congregate together, and only release sperm and eggs when the time and the temperature is right: 23 degrees Celsius. It's the perfect temperature for a bluefin love-in.

Purse-seining: when fishing methods go bad

Posted by Willie - 18 May 2010 at 3:41pm - Comments

When good things go bad: a purse-seine in action

Greenpeace is not against purse-seining, which may surprise some people. Sure it's a big industrial-looking fishing operation, involving huge nets and catching lots of fish. But that's not always a bad thing.

If we are to assume we're still going to catch and eat fish, then purse-seining as a method is probably going to be something that continues. Purse-seining involves setting a large circular wall of net around fish, then 'pursing' the bottom together to capture them. Where purse-seining is best used is with large single-species schools of fish, that shoal tightly together. Examples like herring or mackerel spring to mind. These can be caught relatively 'cleanly' by purse-seining.

Bad days for bluefin tuna

Posted by Willie - 14 May 2010 at 6:00pm - Comments

Now is not a good time to be an Atlantic bluefin tuna.

I mean, it's bad enough that rampant overfishing has already decimated the species to a mere sliver of its former abundance. And it's even worse that the international community couldn't be bothered to ban the international trade that drives the overfishing. The brink of extinction is never a good place to be. The obvious solution for species like tuna the way out of that is to produce lots of healthy baby tuna, that then grow up to be healthy adult tuna, and so on.

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