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Rainbow Warrior brings Greenpeace message to Marmaris

MARMARİS - Hürriyet Daily News | 9/23/2009 12:00:00 AM | JANE TUNA

A hum of engines and general activity welcomes visitors, as curious residents and tourists mingle on the jetty with crew from Greenpeace’s Rainbow Warrior. A group of reporters and assorted local environmental campaigners invited onto the main deck of the legendary ship in the Marmaris harbor has learned much about the organization’s latest campaign

The large and unmistakable form of Greenpeace’s flagship Rainbow Warrior towers over the other boats in the harbor town of Marmaris, her three masts silhouetted against the blue sky.

The vessel was to spend just a few hours last Sunday in the popular Mediterranean resort town before continuing on its way to Lebanon. The visit was part of the organization’s timely and well-publicized campaign particularly highlighting the catastrophic over-fishing of bluefin tuna, the lack of sustainable practices within the marine industry and the general habitat destruction of the environmentally sensitive Aegean and Eastern Mediterranean. The group’s demands include the immediate and urgent need for marine reserves and a focus on unsustainable aquaculture and other damaging practices.

The Greenpeace activities came right before the European Union’s Mediterranean nations on Tuesday refused to back even a temporary a ban on catching bluefin tuna, which is prized by sushi aficionados.

The EU's executive commission urged EU governments to agree to a temporary ban until the stocks recovered but Greece, Cyprus, Malta, Spain, France and Italy — with strong fishermen's lobbies at home — insisted on continuing the hunt despite the precarious state of the species.

A hum of engines and general activity welcomed visitors, as curious residents and tourists mingled on the jetty with crew from the Rainbow Warrior. A group of reporters and assorted local environmental campaigners were invited onto the main deck to listen to Banu Dökmecibaşı, the oceans campaigner for Greenpeace Mediterranean.

Her words were carefully chosen as she explained the crisis the area now faces. The work she and the Greenpeace crew are undertaking is a vital part of the ongoing battle against the careless greed and lack of empathy, so often displayed by those who plunder the Mediterranean. Greenpeace, as one onlooker commented, is there “to represent the collective voice of individuals throughout the world, who have no voice but know that something has to be done – now.”

“Bluefin tuna is an endangered species. Yet bluefin tuna can still be caged, fattened for the market and then killed for profit,” said Dökmecibaşı. “Not only would it be unthinkable to treat a tiger or a mountain gorilla in such a way – it would also be illegal.”

[HH] Unlicensed tuna production

“The farm in Gerence Bay belongs to the Turkish company Akuadem. The Turkish civil court cancelled its license back in June, due to violation of Turkish aquaculture regulations,” Dökmecibaşı said.

“Turkey currently operates the largest Mediterranean fleet fishing for bluefin tuna, an economically and ecologically valuable species facing imminent collapse as a direct result of over-fishing. Northern bluefin tuna have long been an important part of the Mediterranean economy and way of life,” she said. “Today, however, virtually all bluefin tuna from the Mediterranean is exported to Japan, creating vast profits over the last decade, which have fuelled an industry with no concern for the future of a species that has been reduced to critical levels, threatening its own future and that of hundreds of fishermen.”

Turkey has already caused anger and consternation to many by ignoring international quota limits for bluefin tuna, telling its legal fleet to “fish for everything it can before it's all gone.” To add insult to injury, there's still the illegal catch to consider: Turkey just got caught red-handed with an illegal landing of five to 10 tons of juvenile bluefin tuna in the Turkish port of Karaburun.

[HH] Raising awareness

The presence of the Rainbow Warrior in Turkish ports has drawn attention to the many shortcomings of the authorities when it comes to sustainable and responsible practice. Although, it seems the government has a lot to learn, Greenpeace is pleased with the response of the Turkish public who visited the ship. It seems there is growing interest in environmental issues in general and concern that Turkey is trailing way behind other countries.

The Rainbow Warrior doesn't just campaign for the environment. It is also a showcase of environmentally friendly technologies, including solar panels for hot water, a specially designed fuel-saving wind/motor propulsion system and a recycling system for engine heat. The ship also carries out very important research. For example, on its present Mediterranean voyage the crew is conducting a scientific study of pollution. The crew is saddened but not surprised by the large amounts of plastic waste they collect. “We all understand how difficult it is to be respectful of the environment but we also know it’s essential for our planet,” said Captain Derek Nicholls.

[HH] Fight against destroying nature

Greenpeace has been a universally acknowledged instrument of protest and change since its inception in 1971, when a group from Canada set out in a fishing boat to demonstrate against nuclear testing. Their mission was to “bare witness” to U.S. underground nuclear testing at Amchitka, a tiny island off the West Coast of Alaska.

Amchitka was the last refuge for 3,000 endangered sea otters, and home to bald eagles, peregrine falcons and other wildlife. Even though their old boat, the Phyllis Cormack, was intercepted before she got to Amchitka, the journey sparked a flurry of public interest.

On July 10, 1985, while in Auckland, New Zealand, as part of the protest against nuclear testing by the French and United States, the first Rainbow Warrior was mined by French secret agents, killing photographer Fernando Pereira. This act caused diplomatic and media outrage throughout the world but the publicity it engendered also brought the names Greenpeace and Rainbow Warrior into the public’s consciousness. For many it has remained the most important organization for environmental activism ever since. It has been said that it was the “ship that sunk – not the rainbow.”

The second Rainbow Warrior is a British-built, three-mast schooner. The ship has gone through several incarnations, originally a fishing vessel, then working for the North Atlantic oilrigs. She was later bought by Greenpeace, which added masts and sails. It also inherited the original Warrior’s wheel and the first ship’s bell, which hangs in the mess. The ship is now rather old and Nicholls said, it will soon be time for it to retire gracefully. A new ship is being commissioned with hopes for a launch in 2011.

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