The Iridium satellite network is at the forefront of the unsustainable destruction of thousands of tonnes of marine life throughout the Indian Ocean. Their ‘low-earth orbit’ network is being used and abused by the EU’s greedy industrial fishing fleet to aggregate unsuspecting sharks, fish, whales and turtles beneath killer satellite buoys. The net result? Thousands of tonnes of ‘bycatch’1, plastic pollution and out-of-control, unchecked, industrial-scale overfishing for cheap supermarket tuna.
We wrote to Iridium in February to tell them of our concerns, but so far, they’ve ignored us.
We told them that harmful industrial fishing boats from France and Spain (but mostly Spain) are using ecologically destructive fishing methods to overfish yellowfin tuna whilst callously decimating endangered shark, whale, and sea turtle populations. We told Iridium that these environmental crooks from Europe also litter their dirty plastic fishing gear pollution across vast areas spanning thousands of square miles, and that Iridium is aiding and abetting them in this ocean destruction.
The Spanish tuna fishing fleet’s unsustainable, harmful, and indiscriminate fishing gear includes battery-powered satellite GPS location buoys – with Iridium-fitted transponders – which fishers attach to their drifting Fish Aggregating Devices (dFADs). These heinous contraptions float hundreds of miles across the ocean attracting all manner of marine life just like giant killing magnets.
On Wednesday 4 October 2023, scientists, Indian Ocean coastal state representatives and cronies of the EU fishing fleet, will gather for a three day United Nations meeting to discuss the future ‘management’ of dFADs, this particular type of awful and controversial fishing gear. How can the UN, an organisation that has told the world to act to end catastrophic biodiversity loss, make itself complicit in wanton biodiversity loss?
We know, from publicly available information, that Iridium’s transponders ping the location of the overfished tuna through their own satellite network to nearby fishing boats. This makes them complicit in the unsustainable and out-of-control destruction of our ocean’s biodiversity (or ecocide). Iridium’s actions also clearly contravenes their own 2022 public commitment to protect the environment, and undermines their supposed support for United Nations ‘Sustainable Development Goal’ SDG#14 (Life Under Water).
It’s also a fact that Iridium is enabling the Spanish fishing industry to secretly kill at least 100,000 juvenile silky sharks in the Indian Ocean each year in a crazy, profit-driven pursuit of tuna. Tuna that is sent for processing and canning. Tuna that is sold in UK supermarkets like Tesco and is tinned by the popular UK brands ‘John West’ and ‘Princes’.
And Iridium is helping them do it!
In addition to giving away the location of large schools of fish and sharks for profit, Iridium satellite beacons also contain toxic, hazardous and carcinogenic plastic pollution and e-waste such as:
– printed circuit boards containing hazardous ‘forever chemical’ Persistent Organic Pollutants (POP)
– carcinogenic dioxins and heavy metals
– Nickel MH and alkaline batteries
– eventual micro plastics and nano plastics.
Over time, as they become abandoned, lost or discarded by the Spanish and French fishing companies, Iridium-enabled satellite beacons break apart through a combination of sun, sea and wave action. They then sink or drift hundreds of miles leaching toxic poisonous marine pollution into the sea. Smashed apart Iridium beacons are leaking carcinogens and other hazardous chemicals down to the Indian Ocean’s seabed and across its once pristine coral reefs and beaches – all of which is illegal under international marine pollution law. What’s more is that those blue polypropylene ropes and ghost nets that Iridium buoys are tethered to present another different kind of nightmare as they often entangle marine wildlife such as sharks, whales and turtles.
And all of this is out of sight and out of mind. It’s a sad fact that the public are totally unaware that this ecological disaster is even happening – they just carry on buying tinned tuna thinking it’s a ‘sustainable’ product.
That’s why NGOs are calling on Iridium to respond to our letter and to immediately STOP cashing in on overfishing by pulling the plug on their satellite services to the Spanish fishing fleet. In particular these three dangerous, unsustainable and toxic satellite buoy manufacturers:
Please sign this petition today and contact the CEO of Iridium on X (formerly Twitter), Matt Desch: @IridiumBoss. Let Matt know why Iridium must end its relationship with harmful industrial tuna fisheries today.
1 ‘Bycatch’ is the term used for non-target species that are ‘accidentally’ caught in fishing gear.