Greenpeace Australia Pacific BLOG

It’s not a whale. It’s not a shark. It’s a whale shark!

Posted on August 31, 2015 at 15:54 by Greenpeace Australia Pacific

…or maybe it’s a Whark? Whatever you want to call it, today is International Whale Shark Day! But before you start running away screaming “Jawwwwws!” don’t be alarmed. With a face like a whale and a body like a shark, these seemingly frightening creatures are actually gentle giants.

Found in tropical oceans in areas like the Maldives, Philippines and Mexico they feed mainly on plankton and are by far the largest living non mammalian vertebrate. But despite being docile (they pose absolutely no threat to divers) they’re also unfortunately hunted for their highly prized fins and meat.

As a vulnerable species we need to protect the whale shark and their ocean home. Check out these facts about whale sharks… And then raise a glass of plankton and celebrate whale shark day!

The whale shark weighs on average 12 tonnes and can grow more than 14 metres in length. Despite its gigantic size, whale shark teeth are only 6mm long.

Each whale shark has a unique pattern, much like humans’ fingerprints. This allows researchers to run visual analytics to correctly identify and track each whale shark.

Whale sharks move slowly in the ocean. They swim 5km /hour but can dive up to 1,000 metres. However, whale sharks prefer to roam shallow seas with 50 metre depth. This makes them exceptionally vulnerable to ship collisions and fishing nets.

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The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List regards the species as one of the most vulnerable marine animals in the world. Indonesia, through its Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, enacted a law for whale shark conservation. Unfortunately, law enforcement much like the whale sharks, has little to no teeth.

Like most sharks, whale sharks breed slowly which make them dangerously vulnerable to overfishing. Most of which, are contributed due to the world’s insatiable appetite towards shark fins.

Inspired? Take action to protect their ocean home!

Sumardi Ariansyah is an Oceans Campaigner in Indonesia, with Greenpeace Southeast Asia

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Don’t worry reef scientists, Rupert’s got this one

Posted on August 26, 2015 at 14:52 by Rashini Suriyaarachchi

While in Australia on holiday, Rupert Murdoch decided to take to Twitter to share his opinions on the health of the Great Barrier Reef. Warning: they’re far from scientific.

rupertUnfortunately, no matter how good it looks to Rupert, the Reef’s health is deteriorating. Since 1985, half of the coral cover of the Reef has disappeared. In 2014, an Australian Government report found the Reef’s health was ‘poor and expected to further deteriorate in the future’. To make matters worse, a massive coal project on the doorstep of the Reef further threatens its health – find out more and take action here.

Unfortunately for Rupert, the Internet had something to say about his musings. Scroll down and check out some of the best responses. And if you have any gems you’d like to share with us, just post them in the comments section underneath!

Disagree with Rupert and his naked eye? Take action to save the Great Barrier Reef here.

SAVETHEREEF ACT NOW RESIZE

Could one normal person start an anti-litter revolution?

Posted on August 21, 2015 at 16:37 by Rashini Suriyaarachchi

What would you do if you saw growing amounts of trash in your local community? One man used it as an opportunity to take a stand against pollution and inspire the world.

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Pollution is a global problem – clogging up roadsides, parks, rivers, lakes and oceans around the world. The modern world’s overconsumption of plastic – in particular, single-use plastics, has given us an unhealthy understanding of how we should interact with it. But when we realise that plastic can outlive us, it’s clear we need to stop thinking of it as disposable. (more…)

Ready to hear the truth about South Pacific Albacore?

Posted on August 17, 2015 at 16:47 by Lagi Toribau

Originally published on Pina.com

These are worrying times for our local tuna industry. In Fiji boats are being tied up, and staff are being laid off in Samoa, Tonga and in American Samoa where entire fleets are up for sale. Now there is talk of Starkist’s American Samoa cannery potentially losing 2,000 jobs due to limited tuna supplies.

What this tells me is that the current business model and dependency on foreign fishing access and modern technology with destructive fishing techniques is not working for Pacific islanders.

Recent news stories have exposed some of the worst business practices of the fishing industry – including labour abuse, terrible bullying, slavery and human trafficking.  These stories are just the tip of the iceberg, and with a Western and Central Pacific Ocean fishing ground three times the size of Africa, there are many stories yet to be told.

I’ve been working for Greenpeace for 11 years, and have been privileged to join, and lead, some of Greenpeace’s expeditions in the Pacific region (in 2004, 2006, 2008, 2010, 2011 and 2013). Today, I am onboard our latest mission.

Commercial tuna fishing in the Western and Central Pacific started around the 1960s, and has intensified since the early 1980s when tuna fleets from the already crowded Indian Ocean, Atlantic, and Eastern Pacific headed down for the tuna gold rush.

The migration of fishing fleets from distant water nations quickly became an invasion, out-competing local fishers with new technology and leaving the future of these large ocean communities under threat. They came in different faces, phases and sizes, bringing overfishing, overcapacity, pirate fishing, laundering, and dumping, to name a few, not forgetting corruption, prostitution, drug smuggling and people smuggling. The region, once peaceful, is now a sea of crime.

The high value sushi and sashmi grade bigeye and yellowfin tuna was the first target fishery. Fishing was dominated by Asian fleets, which meant that the catch and profits almost exclusively ended up back in Asia. This was quickly recognised by the Pacific countries as inequitable, but changes didn’t help the stocks and now bigeye tuna is at 16% of their unfished levels and yellowfin at 38%.

The fate of skipjack, one of the most robust and productive species in the tuna family, was next in line. The competition was tough, with Spanish monsterboats, and the US treaty boats with nets the sizes of football fields and some of the world’s most advanced fishing technology. With the world competing for a dwindling number of fish to feed the canned tuna market, this fishery spiraled out of control, and quickly became overcrowded.

To try to control the overcrowded fishery, the region introduced regulations like a three month ban on the use of fish aggregating devices, the closure of certain high seas pockets, and a vessel day management scheme (where a fixed number of one day fishing permits are allocated across states, which in turn distribute them to fishing vessels.) But Pacific Island countries can only regulate within their own EEZs and the worst practices simple migrated to the high seas, where transshipping means thousands of tonnes of tuna travel straight to the other side of the world contributing nothing to local economies or dinner tables.

Now, the entire Pacific tuna fishery is home to over 3,000 fishing vessels pillaging these waters every day. Over the last two weeks we’ve been exploring the South Pacific Albacore fisheries. With less than 1% of fishing activity on longliners witnessed by independent observers in the region, it really is a fishery with little or no regulation.

All of the fishing vessels I’ve been on board so far were built in the last five years, despite warnings that fishing capacity shouldn’t be expanded, and having built the ships, companies need to recoup their investment and make their profit before the albacore stocks run out. So their ships fish night and day, with as little maintenance time as possible.

To maximize profits, many cut corners when it comes to working conditions. Cramped living areas, predatory contracts, 18 hour working days, and poor sanitary facilities are all common and seen by the fishermen as part of the job.

There is no doubt that some companies are trying to be good citizens, and that tuna fishing is a critical industry for Pacific jobs and life, but overfishing has put a strain on many in the Pacific tuna sector, and the trouble surrounding American Samoa’s Starkist cannery must be seen in this context.

Instead of investing in smaller scale, more sustainable fishing operations, large foreign seafood companies enlist foreign fleets to go after declining skipjack stocks, or turn to distant water fleets to find fewer and fewer albacore. Albacore are now down to 40%, currently too low to sustain a profitable industry. Economic growth should not come at the expense of natural resources and effective management. I’d like to see long term decisions that mean jobs and fish forever.

I believe it’s time to transform from a model of distant water fishing to local sustainable fleets, with Pacific Island countries working together to achieve these goals. I’m looking forward to meeting with local fishermen and officials to learn more about what is happening in American Samoa, and to talk about how a local, sustainable model with priority access for local fleets benefits everyone, from cannery workers to fishermen.

Some fossil fuel companies could be paying less tax than you. Wait, what?

Posted on August 17, 2015 at 15:44 by Patrick Keane

Are big fossil fuel companies like Shell, Chevron, Rio Tinto, Glencore, BHP Billiton moving billions of dollars offshore without paying any tax?

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Last week, Channel Seven Sunday Night claimed that documents reveal fossil fuel companies are dodging tax and ripping off Australian taxpayers. 29 year old accountant and father-to-be Antoine Deltour claimed that big multinational mining companies like Chevron, Rio Tinto, Glencore, BHP Billiton are among those moving more than $31 billion offshore without paying any tax. Deltour secretly downloaded the documents before walking out of his job at Price Waterhouse Coopers.

Why tax is important (even if it’s boring)

The Australian government launched a parliamentary Inquiry into the alleged tax evasion of companies including Google, Microsoft and Ikea last year after the Tax Justice Network in collaboration with United Voice conducted some research into tax avoidance in Australia. Read the statements and parliamentary inquiry submissions from the companies here.

The Tax Justice Network looked at the levels of tax paid over the last ten years by the top 200 companies on the Australian Stock Exchange (ASX). The research revealed 29% of Australia’s top 200 Companies are paying an effective corporate tax rate of 10% or less, while more than 14% have an effective tax rate of 0%. The Who Pays – ASX 200 Full Report found that for all ASX 200 Companies the average effective corporate tax rate over the last decade is 23%, well below the corporate tax rate of 30%. The report found that within the ASX 200 companies 57% disclosed having subsidiaries in secrecy jurisdictions and 60% report debt levels in excess of 75%, which may artificially reduce taxable profits.

Tax justice is about creating a fair and equal society that can provide the relevant governance and services that protect the people and the environment.

Without tax reform, companies that are dodging tax will continue to deprive hard-working Australians of money that is necessary to protect our environment and fund other essential services like health and education. Without tax reform, these companies will continue to pollute at the same as they send their profits overseas and contribute little to the Australian economy. Tax reform is important because it is the only way we can make sure the big multinationals pay their fare share.

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Image via our friends at GetUp! on Facebook

How do they get away with it?

The Treasurer Joe Hockey may have announced ‘integrity measures’ in the last budget address – but at the same time, the 2015 Budget also made cuts to the Australian Tax Office (ATO) undermining the ATO’s capacity to crack down on tax cheats.

The mining industry can get away with cheating Australians out of revenue because of the influence it wields over the Government through its massive lobbying efforts. The mining industry employs 2% of the Australian workforce and brings in 9% of our GDP – but accounts for 15% of all firms on the Federal Lobbying Register.

In the last decade the mining industry spent $484 million on its major lobbying groups. The money the fossil fuel industry spends on lobbying is tax deductible and reduced company tax by $145 million. Over the last five years company tax revenue was reduced by $20 million per year because of the tax deductibility of lobbying.

You couldn’t make this stuff up

While big mining companies get tax-breaks, the Abbott government has begun a witch hunt to silence Australians who stand up for our environment. A new senate inquiry could hit mums and dads who donate to environmental charities with a tax slug while fossil fuel mining companies are getting away with tax minimisation.

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The fact the government has done nothing effective about the tax minimisation and tax dodging of the fossil fuel mining industry clearly shows that the Abbott government’s priority is taking care of its mates – while looking to slug Australians who care about the Great Barrier Reef, nature, wildlife and global warming.

When fossil companies get away with tax minimisation, but mums and dads could be prevented from making a tax free donation to an environment group, something is deeply amiss.

We need your help to create change. Join the movement striving for a green and peaceful future.

Join the Greenpeace movement today and work towards a green and peaceful future,

Hiroshima and Nagasaki: Remembering the Power of Peace

Posted on August 06, 2015 at 12:46 by Kumi Naidoo

Japan’s nuclear history reflects humanity’s capacity for destruction – and peace.

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More than most, Japan is a nation whose modern history is tragically linked to the quest to use and tame nuclear power. This nuclear history is not noteworthy for its successes, but for how it reflects humanity’s capacity for destruction – and peace.

It has been 70 years since the United States atomic bombings of the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, killing more than 400,000 people, and affecting generations more through nuclear radiation. The horror of these bombings has been imprinted on our consciousness, holding at bay the further use of nuclear weapons in warfare.

These humanitarian catastrophes sparked a powerful peace movement in Japan that has been influential worldwide. It also gave rise to the country’s unique 1947 “Peace Constitution,” which renounces war and armed forces to resolve conflicts, except in self-defense. This legacy of peace has served Japan well, but it is now under threat. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is pushing for deeply unpopular legislation to allow Japan to fight in foreign conflicts, effectively rewriting a part of the constitution that has become ingrained in the nation’s psyche.

The campaign towards achieving global nuclear disarmament meanwhile remains a long way off. At the start of 2015, some 15,850 nuclear weapons were held in stock by nine states: the USA, Russia, China, India, Pakistan, Israel, Britain, France, and North Korea; roughly 1,800 of these weapons are on high operational alert, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. These nine states continue to upgrade their nuclear weapons and research new ones.

We only have to look to the political wrangling over the breakthrough nuclear deal with Iran last month to witness the intractable nature of debates over who gets to wield the threat of nuclear weapons. The lack of political will on achieving disarmament meant no real progress was made in the latest review of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), held in May; the United Nations itself was forced to admit parties could not agree on substantive parts of the meeting’s final document.

Greenpeace itself has a history that is intertwined with nuclear energy: Our organization’s foundation campaign was the 1971 attempt by a small group of activists to stop U.S. nuclear tests on the island of Amchitka, Alaska. Forty-four years later, our understanding of the dangers of nuclear weapons proliferation, and the attendant threats from nuclear energy, has only deepened, along with our core commitment to see it phased out. Nuclear energy, whether for military or civil purposes, is never peaceful. No nuclear program can ever be considered purely civil and always carries the threat of nuclear weapons development. And as the history of catastrophes in the nuclear energy sector proves, nuclear energy is neither safe, nor clean.

Nuclear energy, with its inherent environmental dangers and high costs, is increasingly unattractive as an alternative to fossil fuels. Instead, interest in renewable energy sources is surging in forward-looking economies and among investors, who know that continued fossil fuel dependence only drives conflict and distorts foreign policies.

But the threats are still there.

Nearly four and a half years ago, an earthquake sparked a triple-core reactor meltdown in a nuclear power plant in Japan, forcing tens of thousands of people to leave their homes. After investigations, Greenpeace Japanrevealed last month that radiation in one of the most contaminated districts is still so widespread and at such a high level that those who were evacuated cannot return home safely, despite decontamination efforts.

Japan’s operating reactors are currently shut pending safety checks, but the nation is planning to restart its first nuclear reactor this month. These plans have met overwhelming public opposition, with polls showing themajority of Japanese people are against restarting nuclear reactors. A Greenpeace petition opposing the nuclear restart has gathered tens of thousands of signatures.

At the core of Greenpeace is a conviction that conflict, and the ways it manifests in violent struggles over our natural resources, will destroy our planet, and all of us. So we have to find better ways to resolve these issues. Our non-proliferation campaign over the decades is part of a global peace movement that aspires to social justice and environmental sustainability. Even as we see setbacks to achieving peace in our time, we are convinced that non-violent resistance and protest will achieve this change. History shows that peaceful opposition is far more effective than violence will ever be.

It should be unthinkable that the horror in Hiroshima and Nagasaki 70 years ago would ever be revisited upon anyone anywhere in our world today. Neither should the trauma felt by Japanese people after the Fukushima accident – and also by thousands of people affected by other nuclear disasters, such as Chernobyl – ever again be endured. Our remembrances for this occasion are also reminders to continue our journey towards peaceful change.

Kumi Naidoo is the International Executive Director of Greenpeace.

The Reef is banking on us. We need your ideas to save it.

Posted on July 30, 2015 at 10:52 by Nikola Cašule

Thanks for your help! Our quick survey below should only take a few minutes of your valuable time and will help us shape the next part of our campaign to save the Great Barrier Reef.  Our Reef campaign is moving into a new phase – calling on one of the big four Aussie banks to walk away from financing Reef destruction. Take the survey below or follow this link.