Ocean FAD (Friends Against Driftnets) returns to Guam, “The Beginning of Things“, to attend WCPFC
29 Mar 2012
In the beginning of things
Guam Seems to be the starting point in my life for many reasons. This was a “Home Coming” for me, if ever there is one. I have called many places my home, but Guam holds my heart.
I first moved to Guam, back in 1968 at the age of 8. Growing up as a “howllie boy” civilian, in Tumon, was not easy. After time, the locals took me, and my brothers and sisters, into their families. I eventually forgot that the color of my skin was different.
Guam is an Island in the Pacific, and as all islands are surrounded by the Ocean, the Sea plays a major role in survival, culture, and sustainability of life. When I 1st came to this Island, I could not even swim. I departed this Island with the Ocean forever imbedded in my heart.
This year, I have the privilege to be accompanied by my daughter, Gracie Harder. Gracie is my oldest child of 4. She has just finished her studies at Collage of the Redwoods, in Humboldt County, CA. She is hoping to go to a University soon, but volunteered to assist me at this years WCPFC meeting. Being a daughter of a fisherman, Gracie has spent her whole life around the Ocean. She loves the beach, surfing, swimming, and even fishing. Gracie also shares a high respect and regard for the Sea, and all that lives beneath the Ocean’s surface.
Our 1st day on Guam was spent getting acclimated to the climate and time change. All the heads of delegations were to meet on this day and the WCPFC meeting was not to start till the following day. Little did we know that the International Sustainable Seafood Foundation (ISSF), a NGO backed by the three major US tuna canners, Chicken of the Sea, Starkist, and Bumble Bee Tuna, was calling a meeting for all NGO’s to get together and discuss issues of concern. I am sorry we missed the calling, but maybe it was not meant to be.
Instead, I took my daughter, Gracie girl, to one of my old favorite hang-out spots as a kid. High on top of a cliff, overlooking all of Tumon Bay, is a place called Lover’s Point, aka: Lovers Leap.
In the beginning of things, as the story goes:
Long ago in the days of discovering the world was round, the Spanish came, by way of Magellan, to occupy the Island. Many Island villages across the Pacific were being raped and pillaged by these early seamen, and Guam was no exception.
In the village of Tumon, lived a very high Chief. This Chief, who was well respected by many, also had a beautiful daughter. This princess was kind and loving and above all, breathtaking in her radiant appearance. She soon one the hearts of all the Island, including a Spanish captain.
In order to gain good foreign relations with the Spanish, the Chief of the village promised his daughter’s hand in marriage to the Spaniard captain as soon as he returned from the next voyage. When the word of this marriage reached the good Princess, she was not happy. She would walk the beach at night trying to reason with herself. She knew in her heart that she did not love this man, and wondered if she could ever learn to love him to obey her father’s wishes.
Soon the princess met a handsome young Island boy on the beach. Together, they would spend time walking the beach and sharing their thoughts and before you know it, they fell in love.
One day the Spanish captain returned to Guam, eager for his bride to be. The wedding was set, and the ceremony began, but just as the vows were to be exchanged, the Princess refused and ran away.
The Spaniard Captain was furious and sent his solders after her. They looked all over the island in search for the princess.
They finally found the princess, at the edge of the cliff, with her lover-boy. As the solders grew closer to the couple, they could see that the two lovers had woven their hair together to make one single braded strand.
Just as the solders came close, the two lovers jumped off the cliff together. When the solders looked over the edge of the cliff, all they could see was their hair, intertwined together, floating out to sea.
Some things in life are sacred, and should be respected as such, even worth dieing for. Like the love for one another, the love of a people, a nation, the love for humanity, and the love for our Oceans… worth dieing for…
I remember gazing off this cliff at night in 1969. The sound of thunder would fill our ears for what seemed an eternity. Giant shadows cast down upon us, taking away the light of the stars, as squadrons of B-52 bombers returned from their raids over Viet Nam.
Had the Spaniard solders turned into our own US troops? Had dieing in the name of honor, turn into a thing of the past? Did these two lovers die in vain?
I say NO! Not now, not ever. We must remember them and have honor and respect!
OFAD had many questions for the WCPFC8. Main concerns were:
- CMM 2005-03: non compliance by China. China did not submit catch data for Albacore Tuna to the commission.
- Albacore stock assessment: from ISC. came out positive, when our US Albacore catches have been declining, and without sufficient catch data given by China.
- CMM 2006-06 VMS is exempt in Northwest quadrant. This area is notorious for IUU drift net activity.
- Inquiry about IUU drift net fishing vessel "Bangun Perkasa" witch was seized by USCG in Sept. 2011.
- Inquiry about IUU freezer ship "Lung Yuin" delivering Albacore to US canneries from Taiwan. Reported by Greenpeace in Jan. 2011.
- Request for support from other NGO's to help OFAD in our campaign to rid IUU driftnet fishing from the Pacific, and around the world.
We all settled in our seats with the head of States in the front rows, and NGO’s in the back. I forgot to register Gracie Harder to the Commission, so we had to see if there was going to be room... There was plenty.
We, OFAD, got the privilege to sit right next to the PEW Foundation. They were trying to stop shark Finning, and boy did they come prepared! The PEW Foundation put on a wonderful evening at the Aquarium down the street. We got T-shirts and hats.. I was impressed. I asked them why they never say anything about driftnets?
On the right side of OFAD, was the WWF. I have been talking to the WWF for years and Serimia is an old friend from Fiji. WWF helped AAFA, my fishing association, receive MSC certification back in 2007. The 1st Certified Sustainable Tuna Fishery in the world.
We had 2 rows of empty seats behind us, so it was just right to trade seats with Gracie and our friends around the room. There were many familiar faces as well as new ones. I had the pleasure to introduce Gracie to the commission members. It was a delight to watch her enthusiasm grow.
My main focus was to first find Greenpeace! That was easy, as they were everywhere. Greenpeace had a projector screen up in the lobby with a petition going on display. Greenpeace had their vessel Esperanza in Palau patrolling a shark sanctuary.
I wanted to personally thank Greenpeace, for their work in Taiwan. By exposing Lung Yuin, IUU freezer ship, Greenpeace shows the US where their fish is coming from. And by who. I asked if there was going to be any further investigations on the longliners that delivered to this freezer ship, or other freezer ships. I got no strait answers. Didn’t sound as though Greenpeace was going to pursue it any further. They got a lot of things going on.
I want to say a million mahallos to you Greenpeace!
I only want to ask one thing. Why does Greenpeace never mention driftnets??
Not all longliners are longliners, if driftnets are being used too. If you caught them, give them up...
Next was to get a chance to speak with ISSF, Susan Jackson. I tried to introduce Gracie to Susan, whom I still haven’t properly met yet, but she didn’t seem to have time for us. ISSF has been giving OFAD the cold shoulder for years now. I have heard ISSF, complain that Greenpeace will not talk with them. Why does ISSF not talk with OFAD? The last time I got to talk to ISSF, they tried to tell me that driftnets do not exist. After I had enlightened them that they are still among us, we settled on a statement made by the US state Department, “China owns US”. Sorry OFAD missed ISSF, hopefully next time.
Next on the list was to find Earth Island Institute (EII). EII is the maker of the “Dolphin Safe” label. EII also provides a program to help other small NGO’s get started and on there feet. I havn’t seen anyone from EII at this meeting before. The sign is there, but know body sitting in the seat. This time, there was. I had a long discussion with EII, explaining that there is no body checking the fish or the boats. That all I have to do to get certified to be “Dolphin Safe” is to sign a peace of paper. Fish boat Captains make fun of the “Dolphin Safe’ Certification, and is commonly referred to as toilet paper. If EII was doing it’s job, we wouldn’t need a new MSC label. It would be nice if EII would help OFAD to help EII, but I have my doubts. How could EII, knowing that driftnets are being used to target Albacore Tuna, allow their “Dolphin Safe” label on the can. That is a lie to the public. I wanted to ask if EII, or the canners that use this label, ever turn fish away because it was caught by driftnets? Has EII ever turned over to authorities, IUU driftnet vessels trying to sell Albacore Tuna? Knowing that over 70% of the world caught Albacore Tuna is sold in the US. This is tragic!
In the beginning of things: United Nations Tried to ban Large-Scale driftnets in 1989.
Up to this time, driftnets had over fished the North Pacific for the past 10 years. Driftnets started targeting Squid and Salmon in the early 70’s, then grew to take sharks and tuna too. By the early 80’s, many Salmon runs went missing from Alaska, and also our Albacore Tuna runs that our US Midway, and West Coast fisheries depended on. By the end of the 80’s, hundreds of US Albacore Tuna Trollers went out of business. Even the driftnet fishing vessels were having problems finding fish. The North Pacific had been strip-mined by driftnets.
In 1988, a small NGO named Earth Trust (ET), filmed the boarding of a driftnet vessel, and some footage of a dolphin caught in a driftnet. Only then did people take notice.
In 1991, Earth Trust went to the United Nations with their report.
By 1992, the US passed the “Driftnet Moratorium Enforcement Act”
God Bless ET! I commend them for their efforts. I pray they were not in vain!
Unfortunately the killing of dolphins in Purse Seine nets drew all the attention away from the driftnets. Even though driftnets kill far more whales and turtles and dolphins and birds than any other method of fishing, the media kept the spotlight focused on the Purse Seine fishery only.
Having the “Dolphin Safe” label would not effect the production of the driftnet vessels who have no observers on board their vessels nor on board their freezer/ carrier vessels whom they deliver their fish to. Nobody is going to check there boat at the dock in Thailand.
IUU driftnet fishing for Albacore tuna kept on killing dolphins, turtles, whales and sharks. The killing went unchecked.
By 1993, there should have been No more driftnets, on a large-scale, in the Pacific.
Unfortunately, they did not stop, nor were the driftnets intending to stop.
The enforcement needed to stop driftnets, never came.
In The Beginning of things:
In 1995 US “High Seas” Albacore Troll vessels reported seeing IUU driftnet vessels, as we commonly did, to the US Coast Guard. A driftnet vessel was caught and seized. The US Coast Guard escorted the Chinese IUU driftnet vessel here to Guam. Once the vessel reached Guam, The US State Department notified the District Attorney’s office in Guam, that the US did not want the captain charged for violating the “Driftnet Ban”. This set the standard for law enforcement towards driftnets. This also sent a message all across Asia to grab a driftnet and go fishing.
By 1997, US and Canadian “High Seas” Albacore Troll Fleet grew to 50 vessels fishing in the Mid Pacific. The driftnet vessels had backed off and the Albacore Troll fleet thought it finally safe to fish again.
What was made very clear to the US High Seas Albacore Troll Fleet, was that the driftnets were back in force.
From 2001- 2006 US High Seas Albacore Tuna Trollers reported driftnet vessel sightings more and more until the Sustainable Tuna Trollers could no longer survive.
In 2006- the last report made by the High Seas Albacore Troll Fleet to the USCG led to a record high of 98 IUU driftnet sightings with 0 convictions.
Being that the US State Department is fully aware that there was viable and sustainable US fishery in place would only mean genocide, or pre meditated murder to our own fishery.
For the last 6 years, all the Sustainable Albacore Tuna Trollers have to go by, as proof, is our pictures of driftnet scratched Albacore caught off the West Coast, our reports made in our log books, and the decline of tuna fish stocks.
I asked a US NOAA delegate what kind of investigation was going on and what charges the captain would be facing. This delegate assured me that there was going to be an investigation made and turned in to the US Attorney’s Office in Alaska….
NOAA official said 22 crew members were on board the vessel. The Captain and some of the crew were from Indonesia. All were sent ashore, but would not comment if charges were going to be brought forward.
If it's anything like the way things have been going, probably not.
OFAD will try to look into this matter further. OFAD would like to know who is buying this IUU driftnet fish. Who buys Albacore from Indonesia?
"Bumble Bee" Tuna has had dealings with Indonesia as far back as 1972.
In 1989, "Bumble Bee" was owned by Uni Group, an affiliate of Unicord of Bangkok, Thailand. Shortly after, Bumble Bee opened new canning facility in Santa Fe Springs, California. This facility would be canning frozen tuna loins sent over from Thailand, to be sold here in the US. I wonder if "Bumble Bee" knows anything about this IUU drftnet fishing vessel. Maybe they could find out threw ISSF.
To Be continued…and the story never ends...
This night club, down the street, sums up the WCPFC8 meeting perfectly. Going nowhere, as expected.
As the meeting came to an end, Guam put on a wonderful party for everyone. There was dancing, eating, more dancing, and lots of warm Island hospitality.
In the beginning of things, We pray to God that justice will prevail. In God we trust.
For Honor and Respect... Worth Dying for... Pray not in Vain.