While planes crossing continents are closely watched, ships leave ports and sail across seas, often without an explanation of their routes and intentions. This leaves room for the practice of various crimes on the high seas, such as predatory fishing, slavery-like work and arms trafficking, says journalist Ian Urbina.
“A Boeing 747 cannot roam the world aimlessly, but ships can. And they can carry illegal loads, weapons and not respect the rules of the work without being disturbed ”, comments Urbina to Folha.
Urbina, 49, is an American journalist and author of “Oceano sem Lei”, a book that brings together stories gleaned during three years of travel on the high seas. In the book, he shows how the oceans, although occupying two-thirds of the earth’s surface, are poorly monitored, both by governments and the press.
For him, the difference in control between aviation and navigation is due to the attacks of September 11. “If they had used a huge ship to attack Manhattan or Los Angeles, the control over the ships would be much greater today.”
The book begins with the story of the pursuit of a huge illegal fishing vessel which, despite being on Interpol’s catch list, continued to cast nets in Antarctic waters. It is up to an environmental NGO to track him down and follow him for months, in an attempt to create a flagrante delicto. The ship frequently changed its name, flag and owner, to confuse investigators and circumvent the laws.
Pulitzer Prize winner and contributor to the New York Times, the author describes in detail the workings of ships operating in international waters, placing gigantic fishing nets, several kilometers long, capable of pulling together many animals in more fish than they originally were. target. This predatory performance affects the planet as a whole.
“The oceans are like the lungs of the Earth, which produce and clean 50% of the air we breathe, and that only happens because there is a diversity of life in them. If the oceans die and become like a desert, without fish, without algae and without corals, they will no longer be able to function as a carbon sink, ”he warns.
In addition to cash, marine workers are also threatened. The book recounts the journeys of employees who work in conditions close to slavery. Many of them are recruited from poor Southeast Asian countries and end up spending months at sea, working long hours at dangerous tasks, like hauling huge nets out of the water.
In many cases, fishing boats and their workers roam the sea for long periods of time, and other boats come to them to collect caught fish and leave provisions. Some of the sailors come from rural areas, and are forced to work to pay off debts with recruiters and boat owners, which never end.
Last year, with the Covid pandemic, the situation for sailors became more complicated. At the start of the crisis, many countries closed their ports and left boat crews unable to return home, Urbina says. Over the next few months, many of the companies that owned the ships went bankrupt and the crews were left with no one to collect back wages or ask for help getting home. The problem is still there.
One of the extracts from the book takes place on the Brazilian coast in 2017. The author joined a Greenpeace mission to photograph corals and thus attempt to have the government revise submarine oil exploration authorizations.
During the last decade, the pre-salt reserves have been presented by governments as a treasure that could enrich Brazil. Yet a few years later, the country experienced its worst economic crisis since 2014, accompanied by a political crisis.
For him, the issue between investing in polluting resources and preserving nature must be long-term. “There will certainly be immediate gains from oil exploration, but you have to see the problems that this can generate in the future, and also whether this wealth will be distributed to society. Will the money really be used on new roads, schools, hospitals, to fight Covid, or will it be used to enrich the same old groups? “, he asks.