Iridium, a GPS firm, encourages the overfishing of yellowfin tuna

Chris Packham, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Amanda Holden, and others have asked Iridium, a GPS firm, to halt real-time GPS tracking because it’s being used to overfish yellowfin tuna.

Yellowfin tuna. Population numbers have declined catastrophically due to overfishing
Yellowfin tuna. Population numbers have declined catastrophically due to overfishing. Image: MikeB

My understanding is that Iridium’s GPS devices communicate with Fish Aggregating Devices which allows fishing fleets to more accurately locate yellowfin tuna and I presume other fish species which are drawn to these aggregating devices.

Iridium have rejected the request to stop providing its services. They’ve written to the celebrities and conservationists. The letter is published in The Times today. They argue that it is up to regulators to regulate the number of fish caught in the seas.

Matt Desch, Iridium’s chief executive, said that the campaigners should put pressure on regulators. He said that “[Holding] a communications company responsible for whether the end-users act responsibly is a less effective choice [than asking regulators]”.

Industrial scale fishing of for example yellowfin tuna in the Indian Ocean has caused a collapse in their population numbers. This has been happening for almost a decade. It has led to Princes and Tesco and other brands to call for regulators to take action.

The above-mentioned celebrities decided to take another route which as mentioned has failed. They wrote to the UK arm of the US-based company. Iridium own and manage a low earth-orbit satellite network, which allows fishing companies to hoover up tuna.

The celebrities wrote: “There is one small area of your fisheries and commercial fishing operations that we believe to be extremely unsustainable.”

They were joined by more than a hundred marine groups and scientists in signing the letter. It was organised by the UK charity Shark Guardian.

Ironically, Iridium runs an Outlaw Ocean Project which detects wrongdoing in fisheries. The celebrities and conservationists said that this was doing great work but clearly Iridium is not minded to go further.

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Post Category: Marine wildlife