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May 29, 2008

The Four French Purseiners Depart Ibiza Harbour

BY: Keith Ellenbogen


©OCEANA/ Keith Ellenbogen


(Side note: Ibiza is spelled and pronounced ‘Eivissa’ in Catalan, the language of this Balearic Islands area.)

9:00 Pursainers Depart

At 9:00 am this morning the four French purseiner tuna fishing boats departed Ibiza harbor bearing a course of 120 degrees. Within minutes of noticing activity in the harbour Jani “Osku” Forsgaard the Captain of the Marviva/Oceana ship directed the crew to hoist-up the anchor set a course to follow the fishing boats.

Expedition Leader Xavier Pastor gathered the Oceana/Marviva team in the Captains Bridge and briefly implemented a strategy for following the fleet. During this briefing he addressed the two immediate concerns. One, what happens if we loose sight of the fishing boats? And two which of the four boat should we follow if the fleet separates…as he expects. Xavier emphasized that circumstances will dictate which vessel we follow but in the event we have to make a decision he would prefer to follow the blue purseiner fishing boats because their larger size.

10:15 – 10:30 We encounter Tug Boat and Tuna Cages

Eight nautical miles Northeast of La Mola (island of Formentera) at 10:15am we sighted a tug boat with call numbers ‘EGDW’. The sighting of this tug boat with tuna cages (we assume still empty) is of particular significance as we believe it will be used to transfer and move the live tuna from the French Purseiners.

10:30 am Oceana team Watches the Fleet of Fishing Boats

At 10:30 from the bridge and the observation deck the Oceana team watched the fishing boats circling a sea bank (peak depth 76meters) located 10 nautical miles NE of La Mala looking for bluefin tuna. For about an hour they circled this sea ban suggesting that the bluefin tuna may be near.

11:15 am The Wind Changes Direction

The wind begins to change direction and the seas start to become choppy. The search stops and the boats continue on a course of 120 degrees.

12:00 pm The Purseiners Anchor

At about noon (due to the possibility of rough seas outside) the following four purseiners anchored in Es Calo a bay of Formentera Island.

  • 1. Gerald Jean III, Port Vendres PV 916344
  • 2. Gerard Luc IV ST 900236
  • 3. Gerald Jean IV MA-916469, Marseille
  • 4. Gerard Luc III, ST 669329, Agde

Shortly after all boats were anchored a fisheries patrol aircraft from the Secretaria General De Pesca Maritima (Fisheries Department, Spanish Government) flew overhead also monitoring activity in the area.

1pm Oceana Photographic/Videographic Team Prepares to go close to the Fishing Boats

Carlos Pérez, skipper of the Rigid Inflatable Boats (RIB) and Oceana’s Logistics Coordinator gathered team members: Cesar Fuertes, deckhand, Keith Ellenbogen, Photographer and Enrique Talledo, videographer. The purpose of this mission is to maneuver close to the boats and document any activity. With choppy waters and mild wind Carlos advised the Oceana team to prepare all photographic equipment against the probability and likelihood of getting wet from the oceans spray.

1:30 The RIB is Lowered into the Ocean

Cesar Fuertes performs a final check on the engine on the RIB and the Marviva crew lowers the RIB into the ocean.

2:30 pm Carlos Perez Accelerates towards the Fishing Boats

With the communication equipment working, onboard the grey RIB, Carlos Perez a veteran of 20 years accelerated the boat through the water checking out its capabilities. As we approached within 30-40 meters of the fishing boats we did not notice any activity onboard their vessels. It is worth noting we are now preparing ourselves to maneuver close to these fishing boats to photographic their activities when the fleet begins to fish for bluefin tuna.

In the distance, the anchored Oceana/Marviva research vessel can be seen closely watching and monitoring the four French fishing boats.

8pm We are photographed

At 8pm just before the sunset a couple of men from the purseiner fishing boat number ST 669329 on a small skiff approached our boat to take a number of photographs.