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The last great tuna rush in the world's oceans is underway in the South Pacific. Tuna stocks are being plundered and those meant to protect them are dying mysterious deaths far from shore while fishermen live and die in appalling conditions.
At least eight fisheries observers — mostly recruited from South Pacific states with an interest in the exploitation of tuna — have died in mysterious circumstances over the past five years, based on reports and my own extensive research.
Fishermen too have fallen victim to the hunger for tuna that has sent thousands of boats into the region, with crews in virtual slavery, reluctant to admit the scale of the fishing going on — far in excess of what is agreed or approved.
Legal recourse on the high seas is a murky world where borders are hard to define and justice hard to come by — even in the case of murder.
A murder at sea
As 46-year-old skipper Xie Dingrong lay in his bunk he might have reflected on how tough it was to bring sashimi from the seas of the South Pacific to the world.
He had been on the ocean for months on a tuna longline fishing boat, one of the 15 million people working full time in what the International Labour Organization (ILO) reckons is one of the world's most dangerous jobs.
By 9 pm on September 7, 2016, he was asleep in his cabin, on the high seas between Fiji and Easter Island. Six men, armed with fish gutting knives, scissors, and a hammer, entered and, according to court documents, stabbed and slashed at Xie.