This story was originally published by Reveal and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.
Day after day, Keith Davis stood at the rail of the cargo ship, watching a fleet of rusty long-liners off-load tuna, marlin, and other fish.
His work as an observer for the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission was critical. On that ship off the west coast of South America, he was a vital watchman in the struggle to protect the world’s oceans from overfishing.
A 41-year-old musician and nature lover from Arizona, Davis was a veteran of many such voyages. He loved the Jacques Cousteau–like majesty of the high seas, the tinseled splash of dolphins and glassy-blue waves that rolled on restlessly from horizon to horizon.
This trip in 2015 was vexing. The fish being loaded onto the cargo ship were so heavily carved up that he struggled to identify them. He wondered whether fishermen on the long-liners might be trying to trick him, to disguise one kind of fish as another. Frustrated, he took pictures, asked questions and fired off emails to a federal fisheries biologist in Hawaii.