Greenpeace gets wet

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, August/September 1996:

LUXEMBOURG––Major conservation
groups have historically been quiet
about fishing––and Greenpeace, founded on
oceanic campaigning, is no exception.
The world’s second-largest environmental
group, trailing only the World
Wildlife Fund, Greenpeace withdrew from
active opposition to sealing in Atlantic
Canada in 1986, even before seals were
blamed for crashing cod stocks. The
Greenpeace campaign against toxic pollution
in the St. Lawrence River was promoted in
part as an effort to improve fishing.

During July and August 1993,
Greenpeace cofounder Paul Watson confronted
Cuban dragnetters off Newfoundland.
Both Watson and other organizations
including Greenpeace have confronted gillnetters
and driftnetters off and on for more
than a decade, but the 1993 action was perhaps
the first of high profile undertaken not
for marine mammals or sea turtles, but for
fish––and Watson left Greenpeace in 1978
to form the Sea Shepherd Conservation
Society. Greenpeace was nowhere in sight.
Greenpeace has, however, lately
seized upon fishing as t h e marine ecology
issue of the decade, and can be credited
with amplifying awareness of the crisis.

Better late than never
As European Union fisheries ministers
gathered for their June 10 meeting,
Greenpeace hung a banner from the roof of
the European Council building and 15
demonstrators including two people dressed
as herrings posed with placards.
Three days later, Greenpeace
reprised Watson’s 1993 campaign by challenging
Danish gillnetters off Scotland.
Chasing two Danish vessels out of Scots
waters, the Greenpeace ship Sirius tried for
an encore on June 24. The Danish vessel
Mette Ellison reportedly rammed the Sirius,
while fishers shot flares and hurled grappling
hooks at Greenpeace inflatable
dinghies, whose crews sought to attach
floats to the Danish nets so that they
wouldn’t sink. That brought an armed
British fishery cruiser, The Shetland, to the
scene to “monitor developments.”
Ten days after that, Greenpeace
won brief media notice of dynamite and
cyanide damage to aggressively fished coral
reefs, when spokesperson David Bellamy
told science teachers at the Telecom Sci Con
1996 conference in Dunedin, New Zealand,
that a 600-mile “no take” zone should be set
aside around sensitive reefs, with an 1,800-
mile “no take” zone around Indonesia.
Fishing would thus be prohibited in all but
the most remote parts of the Pacific Ocean.
Scientists at the simultaneous
International Coral Reef Symposium reported
similar data to little notice––not for the
first time. Summarized Eve-Ann Prentice of
the London Times, “Of the 109 countries
with reefs, 93 have coral that has been damaged
by human activity. About 10% of the
world’s coral reefs may now be dying and
beyond help. Another 30% are expected to
‘decline seriously’ within the next 20 years,
a 1993 study said.”
Both warnings paralleled a November
1989 expose by Los Angeles Tims
reporter Bob Drogin, amplified by Th e
New York Times on the eve of Earth Day
1990, who focused on the use of child labor
in Philippine dyamite and cyanide fishing, .
Greenpeace confronted fishers into
mid-July. On July 8, a Greenpeace bulletin
said, crew of the Benne Dorthe “ a i m e d
rifles at Greenpeace activists,” while another
crew “threw a seal bomb at Greenpeace

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