Joining the Rainbow Warrior

It is my first time on a ship. I really don't know what to expect. I've packed warm and cold clothes, medicines and food, sandals and sturdy sailing boots. The sea sickness pills were also high on the priority list.
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Yacht Sailing against sunset.Sailboat.Sepia toned
Yacht Sailing against sunset.Sailboat.Sepia toned

It is my first time on a ship. I really don't know what to expect. I've packed warm and cold clothes, medicines and food, sandals and sturdy sailing boots. The sea sickness pills were also high on the priority list.

Arriving in Mauritius from Amsterdam, I quickly grab a taxi to Port Louis where the Greenpeace flagship Rainbow Warrior is moored and begin to think more deeply about the personal journey in front of me.

As a media officer with Greenpeace International, I am to sail across the Indian Ocean on a campaign calling for an end to overfishing.

It's not a holiday as some colleagues in Amsterdam have suggested with a smirk -- no, I will not be sitting in a hammock in the sun with a cocktail in my hand. And yes, I may spend too much time leaning over the rails sick from the sea swell.

Among those jokes, however, we remain painfully aware of the continued plunder of our oceans and the work that must be done to end it.

Using purse seining nets and fish aggregation devices (FADs), European and Asian fishing vessels are decimating tuna stocks across the Indian Ocean, the world's second largest tuna fishery.

Greenpeace is here talking sustainable solutions with coastal governments and calling for regional management and improved enforcement to end pirate fishing.

The figures on illegal fishing alone are alarming: for the Western Indian Ocean, pirate fishing represents between 11 and 26 percent of the total fishing effort and between 21 and 43 percent in the Eastern Indian Ocean.

This is what's at stake -- fair fisheries and fish for the future.

But for now, I'm also excited to be here and after the taxi drive through the cane fields of central Mauritius, I arrive at the wharf and I see the masts of the Warrior rise before me. This legendary ship is my home for the next four weeks and pride bursts within me.

Paying my grey-bearded taxi driver, I heave my backpack on my shoulder and walk up the gangway and climb into the ship, greeted by crew and campaigners alike.

Once the heaviest winds of tropical Cyclone Anais pass us by, we farewell Mauritius and depart for the Maldives -- where we plan to document that country's sustainable pole and line tuna fishing -- but the wind-swept swell still gives rise to sea sickness.

I fight it as best I can, take time out on deck in the fresh air, swallow the sea sickness pills and avoid food. Soon enough, I'm back up and running... well, walking with a lean, I should say, with the ship at an angle as it sails to the north-east.

And the Rainbow Warrior is a sturdy ship.

After leaving Durban in early September, it has conducted joint surveillance operations with the Mozambican Ministry of Fisheries, searching for illegal foreign fishing vessels targeting tuna and endangered sharks in Mozambique's waters.

In Mauritius, campaigners met with the Mauritian government, industry representatives and local fishermen to address the problems of overfishing.

The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organisation has estimated there are 2.5 times the capacity of fishing vessels patrolling the high seas than what the ocean's fishing populations can cope with. This is a situation that must change before our oceans have been totally emptied.

But for now, on the Rainbow Warrior, I look upon the ocean with hopeful eyes. Among the dozens of fast-moving flying fish, I eagerly wait for a glimpse of whales or dolphins in this crystal clear blue water.

I've also watched the sun set on the rolling waves, the moon and stars rise above the swell and felt the strength of its energy against the ship's hull. This is a vast and beautiful ocean, powerful but also fragile.

There's much work to be done and like the Rainbow Warrior, I'm dreaming of change.

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