Greenpeace International’s largest vessel, the Esperanza, docked at Keelung Harbor yesterday and is scheduled to remain around Taiwan for two weeks as part of Greenpeace’s public ocean protection campaign.
Greenpeace Taiwan’s oceans campaigner Yen Ning (顏寧) said that based on statistics compiled by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization in 2010, about 85 percent of fish species are being overfished, and according to a research paper published in Science magazine in 2006, all populations of fish and seafood species are projected to collapse by 2048 if the problem of overfishing is not solved.
“About 60 percent of the world’s tuna catch comes from the west-central Pacific, and Taiwan’s tuna fishing vessels play an important role in the region — with 53 large fishing vessels invested in or registered by fishermen, and nearly 1,600 longline fishing vessels in the region,” Yen said.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature has listed three of the four major tuna species in the region as threatened or near threatened, she said, adding that the number of big eye tuna has dropped by 29 percent in the past 15 years and the number of yellowfin tuna has declined by 21 percent in the past decade.
The organization’s interviews with about 50 tuna fishermen from Siaoliouciou Island (小琉球), Pingtung County’s Donggang Township and Green Island (綠島) revealed that nearly all the fishermen noticed that fish stocks are running low and that fish are becoming smaller.
Many fishermen said that most fish are caught by the large seine fishing vessels in distant waters, leaving them with few big tuna to catch offshore, Greenpeace said, adding that large fishing nets can encircle an area the size of 60 soccer fields to a depth of about three ferris wheels stacked on top of each other.
Greenpeace also released a report on of Taiwanese awareness and knowledge of the fishing industry and ocean environment. Results showed that up to 77 percent of Taiwanese did not know that the oceans are being overfished.
“The government does not provide enough information for people to know about fish depletion,” Yen said.
“Eighty-seven percent agreed that ‘the government should inform people about what consumption of which species will cause damage to the marine ecology,’” she said, adding that 81 percent agreed that Taiwan should cooperate with other countries in reducing the amount of tuna caught and 86.4 percent agreed that the government should put restrictions on tuna-catching methods.
The group’s telephone survey was conducted by National Sun Yat-sen University’s Public Opinion Poll Studies Center, which collected opinions from 1,203 people using proportionate sampling between January and February this year.
Greenpeace said it hopes that Taiwan’s government can support international ocean conservation methods, prohibit the use of fish aggregation devices and other methods that harm ocean ecology and also actualize effective management mechanisms with other countries, such as establishing ocean reserves in the high seas.
The Esperanza will be open to the public at Keelung Harbor at the weekend.