Clash Between Greenpeace Activists and Bluefish Tuna Fishermen in the Med Sea

greenpeace tuna fishermen water boats photo aerialThere are no clear solutions to the fight between conservation and capitalism [image via flickr]

Tempers flared out at sea as environmentalists and fishermen sparred over the endangered Bluefish Tuna in the Mediterranean Sea just around World Ocean Day. In the last few days, Greenpeace activists and Maltese fishermen engaged in one violent and one peaceful altercation, resulting in a few freed tuna, an injured activist, several irate fishermen (who lost equipment and fish), and two sunken inflatable boats belonging to Greenpeace.

The fishermen were operating under a legal European Union fishing quota when Greenpeace activists attempting to stay the tide of tuna extinction moved to cut their lines and net cages. The tuna would have been sent to “fat farms” so they could put on weight prior to being sold on the Japanese market. Though harsh, the methods used to protect tuna reflect their dire plight.

greenpeace-tuna-commercial[image via flickr]
On the verge of extinction

Nearly 80% of the large, migratory fish, which live in the Western and Eastern Atlantic as well as the Mediterranean, have been fished out according to a Greenpeace report.  This is problematic since the tuna’s high metabolic rate ensures they consume large quantities of prey, which in turn plays an important role in the Mediterranean’s ecosystem balance. (like whale poop does)

Poor policy-making

Activists believe that governments are not doing enough to protect the fish, while the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) recommends a temporary ban on commercial fishing until such time that the population is restored to healthy, sustainable levels.  They also recommend that countries curb heavy industrial fishing practices that have caused the EU to reach their share of the quota one week before June 15th, which is the last day of tuna fishing season.

What will the fishermen do?

Meanwhile, thousands of Mediterranean fishermen are at risk of losing their livelihood if a ban is put in place. One hundred and fifty thousand fishermen in Manila alone face job losses as a result of a severely restricted fishing industry.  The Federation of Malta Aquaculture was openly critical of Greenpeace’s recent activism, citing that fishermen are already subjected to “unprecedented levels of controls…within legal/sustainable limits.”

A highly charged and complicated issue – since people’s lives depend on fishing and selling tuna, and the tuna’s survival depends on a fishing hiatus – policy-makers would do well to look to examples of other restored habitats.

The brook trout and salmon are among two endangered fish species in the US, for example, that enjoy a certain degree of protection, though with no less controversy, and with a different set of parameters to consider.

A fair sacrifice in the short run and better policy in the future could potentially save the tuna from extinction.  If the tuna lives, everybody wins.  And if it becomes extinct, not only will there be considerable job loss, but we will have to face yet another threat to environmental stability.  The WWF says it is not yet too late.

Other Fishy Tales:
World Ocean Day – 6 Tips to Clean the Seas
Frozen Fish vs. Phosphates Stirs Up A Government Reaction
James Feasts Slowly Upon Michael Pollan’s ‘Food Rules’

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12 thoughts on “Clash Between Greenpeace Activists and Bluefish Tuna Fishermen in the Med Sea”

  1. raven says:

    should just stop eating fish. i did, and i loved to eat it. used to go fishing as a child with a line, hook, sinker and bait. it was fun then, but the overfishing killed that. feel guilty to take my kids fishing now. its a losing battle with the fat cats out there.

  2. Dolphin and tuna safe IS important, I agree.

    According to the EDF, of all the “starkist” tuna varieties, the best ecological alternative is albacore tuna. Other alternatives include yellowfin and skipjack, but yellowfin in particular ranks among the least best choices. “Canned light” is also a decent alternative.

  3. zohar says:

    We don’t just need “Dolphin-safe”, we need “Tuna-safe”!

  4. What about Starkist Tuna in the tin? Should we avoid buying this altogether?

  5. The best way to avoid tuna is to ask when ordering a fish steak or sushi. The bluefin goes by the name of oriental tuna, giant bluefin, northern bluefin, and tunny, or as hon maguro or toro in sushi. There are sustainable fish options. Use http://www.edf.org/page.cfm?tagID=1521 from the Environmental Defense Fund to identify reasonable choices.

  6. How can we know what tuna in the store is bluefin? We can put our money where our mouths are and not buy endangered “food.” Either that or a more extreme option of vegetarianism.

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